Surrey residents aged 18 and older are sought for the next Surrey Shares cohort. (Contributed photo)

Surrey residents aged 18 and older are sought for the next Surrey Shares cohort. (Contributed photo)

Surrey storytelling program for seniors expands to include 18-and-older

Organizers wonder if ‘COVID fatigue’ impacting registration

An initiative that launched last year to connect and support people aged 55 and older who were isolated or lonely and help them achieve some personal goals is raring to go on its third round.

But despite changes that include opening the Surrey Shares program to those as young as 18, officials say they are scrambling to meet the minimum capacity required to get the ball rolling.

Facilitator and life coach Jessika Houston said last week (April 21) that only five people had signed on at that point to participate in the storytelling program – offered at no charge – that was scheduled to get underway on April 26; just half of the minimum required.

She can’t help but wonder if pandemic-related restrictions are making those who might otherwise be interested hesitate.

“I’m wondering if it might be a little bit of COVID fatigue, where people don’t really know what’s happening with all the changes, so they’re not wanting to sign up for something that’s for 12 weeks,” Houston said.

“In the other two cohorts, as soon as we started advertising we were pretty much full, and in this cohort… we’ve been advertising for about three weeks.

“And we thought it would actually be easier because we’ve opened it up to 18-plus.”

The program – with funding from the Government of Canada’s New Horizons for Seniors Program – is an initiative of the Surrey Intercultural Seniors Social Inclusion Partnership Network. Adapted to be held online, it includes working on goal-setting and personal growth with a certified life coach, and with a speaking coach on public-speaking skills and telling stories of personal interest.

Stories recorded by the first cohort were shared online in November.

READ MORE: Surrey seniors connect through storytelling on video

Past participants described benefits including gaining new skills, making new friends and discovering new interests.

Houston said additional changes incorporated into the upcoming 12-week program – now simply planned to start “soon” – include the ability to participate with an interpreter or support worker; changes that make the program more accessible to people for whom English is not their first language or who have diverse abilities.

As well, there are now loaner laptops available to those who don’t otherwise have the technology to participate; and, weekly group sessions will also be incorporated, to create opportunities for participants to meet and work together.

Houston said while some previous participants have expressed interest in getting involved again, the grant program mandates that 80 per cent of each cohort be new to the program. As well, off those, 65 per cent must be seniors, “because it’s a seniors-funded program.”

If interest in this cohort exceeds capacity, Houston said names will be added to a list for the next group, which is planned for September.

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