The Community-Based Seniors Serving (CBSS) Sector Initiative focuses on developing a coordinated sector in Alberta by bringing together community-based organizations around a common framework for action, with a focus on identifying and addressing priority areas related to healthy aging in community. This initiative seeks to create a provincial network of organizations who are united by a shared vision; We want Alberta to become one of the best places in the world to grow old.
As individual organizations, our capacity for influence is limited to the lives we directly touch. By building a structure and framework that connects our organizations, we can touch the lives of all Albertans. We can advocate for healthy aging on a provincial level, share knowledge, and create functional relationships with one another and our allies in this sector. Together we can create the infrastructure that connects us to increase our collective impact.
A strong and structured sector would allow CBSS organizations best positioned to deliver specialized, unique, and critical services to seniors in the right place and at the right time, to do so at in a more coordinated and better resourced way and at a larger scale, ultimately enhancing health and wellbeing of older adults in the province.
Healthy Aging Collaborative Online Resources and Education (CORE) is a free member-based digital knowledge and learning hub designed to support this work of coordination and strengthening of the sector by connecting CBSS orgs and their allied partners and providing a digital space to share knowledge and capacity building opportunities, as well as find and collaborate with others with aligned mandates.
CORE is designed to provide up-to-date information, resources, and training opportunities and to make it easier to communicate, coordinate, and collaborate in order to build capacity, strengthen the network, and develop a collective and cohesive voice among volunteers, staff, and others who support healthy aging initiatives. CORE is primarily a network and sector building tool aimed at supporting the vision of this provincial initiative. With support from the United Way, the Ministry of Seniors and Housing, Alberta Blue Cross, Alberta Health Services and the Government of Canada, CORE Alberta was launched on May 10, 2020.
Challenge & Origins
The population of seniors in Canada continues to grow faster than any other age group and older adults overwhelmingly express a desire to stay in their own homes as they age. However, they are often unable to do so due to a lack in reliable, accessible, and coordinated non-medical support services. These non-medical supports, such as home, social, and financial supports, are offered less consistently across Alberta than medical supports through the healthcare system.
There are thousands of incredible community-based organizations, each offering critical services that support healthy aging. The lack of provincial coordination and working in isolated clusters have left us without a unified voice, but our collective presence is required at every table where decisions affecting older Albertans are made and our ability to serve older adults comes from the strength of our connections to each other.
Systems partners such as Alberta Health Services and the Ministry of Seniors and Housing have expressed how important CBSS organizations have been to understand what is happening on the ground in community in order to tailor responses to specific challenges in specific regions of the province, especially during the pandemic.
In 2019, a group of seniors serving community organizations in partnership with Alberta Ministry of Seniors and Housing, recognized this challenge and decided to jointly explore potential approaches to change the system and ensure that the community-based seniors serving sector is seen in the larger ecosystems as unified, with unique expertise, and playing a critical role in Albertans aging in the way they want.
The concept of sector development and what is possible in Alberta was inspired by the success of the Healthy Aging Model in BC through the work of the United Way of the Lower Mainland that has been in development over the past decade. According to the BC Ministry of Health, they have seen a decrease in the number of seniors admitted to hospital and they attributed this to the high level of integrated community-based care achieved through sector development and coordination efforts of the initiative.
The Community-Based Seniors Serving (CBSS) Sector Engagement Project was undertaken by Age Friendly Calgary, carya, Edmonton Seniors Coordinating Council and Sage Seniors Association with support from Alberta Seniors and Housing and it involved twenty-six conversations with CBSS organizations across the province as a first step to building an “Alberta made” CBSS sector. These conversations were held in sixteen communities across Alberta with 187 individuals. These consultations indicated that there was a strong interest in developing a CBSS sector in Alberta.
They focused on four key areas:
- Strengths and challenges related to the healthy aging of seniors in the community
- Concerns of organizations as they respond to these strengths and challenges
- Priorities for collaboration to support seniors in their community
- Interest in creating a CBSS sector
The resulting “What We Heard” document presents an overview of the perspectives and themes emerging from these conversations and proposes some next steps for the development of a CBSS sector in Alberta.
This provincial initiative is currently being led by an interim Community Leadership Council (CLC), who quickly came together during the early days of the pandemic to champion the launch of the CORE Alberta platform and support a provincially coordinated pandemic response. The United Way of Calgary and Area was named the backbone organization to support this work.
The emerging strategic objectives of the initiative are:
1. Establish and coordinate the CBSS Sector
2. Provide a provincially coordinated learning and collaboration network
3. Address unmet needs through a community development approach
4. Advocate for appropriate and coordinated investment in the CBSS Sector