Program provides information, assistance to seniors seeking financial support

Providing “less confusing” information about financial support programs available to seniors is the goal of a program

Providing “less confusing” information about financial support programs available to seniors is the goal of a program which is celebrating seven years of operation at Sylvan Lake Seniors Centre.

Started in 2006, the Seniors Benefits Program is an initiative between the Sylvan Lake Seniors Association and the town’s Family & Community Support Services. The association provides the services at the centre while FCSS provides funding to operate the program.

The Seniors Benefits Program provides information and accessibility to seniors’ financial programs that are offered by the provincial government, said coordinator Chloe Lester.

There are four components of the government programs for qualified seniors 65 and over.

The financial assistance benefit offers a cash benefit to low income seniors to assist them with their day-to-day needs.

The optical and dental program is income based and helps seniors obtain assistance for optical and dental services.

The special needs assistance program helps seniors to stay in their own homes by providing support for things like health care costs, housing costs, repairs, and ramps.

Then there’s the education tax assistance program which locks the amount of education tax payable by seniors on their property bill at the amount it was in 2004 or in the year they turned 65, whichever is more recent.

Lester said they provide a walk-in, free service for seniors looking for information or who need help understanding and filling out forms.

“Our primary function is to assist people in completing forms and looking after their distribution (to the proper government agency).”

“We have information about all the programs and can answer questions,” said Lester of herself and volunteers trained to help.

Their hours are Thursdays from 9 a.m. to noon and 1-4 p.m. in the seniors centre on 50th Avenue. People may also contact the seniors centre at 403-887-5428 on Thursdays for more information.

The provincial programs augment federal programs such as guaranteed income supplement, Old Age Security and Canada Pension Plan. While they don’t really deal with the federal programs, they’re able to direct people to the right sources to make sure they’re getting what they’re entitled to receive.

Since 2006 the Seniors Benefits Program has helped 2,776 clients in the Sylvan Lake Seniors Centre and logged over 3,000 volunteer hours, said Lester.

“Volunteers are always welcome,” added seniors association president Don MacKenzie. “We provide training and ongoing support for volunteers.”

They also liaise with a seniors programs advisor who works for the provincial government in Red Deer.

While the support programs are available only for those 65 and older, they welcome younger volunteers who are interested in working with seniors and helping people. In fact, there’s a real need for volunteers, added MacKenzie.

Besides information on support programs, the centre maintains an extensive resource centre with information on a variety of things that relate to seniors’ issues.