In the heart of 16 communities across British Columbia, the TAPS program is fostering a sense of “joy,” “connection,” and “fun” among its participants. At Valley Community Services in Creston, BC, a vibrant community of seniors gathers on weekdays to engage in a diverse array of physical and creative activities, all while enjoying healthy meals.
“I joined TAPS because they have a choir and a band, and they sing twice a week. It’s been very good for me, it’s awesome,” says Eileen Warnock, a 77-year-old TAPS enthusiast. “I really love the meals and the activities. We also walk over to the recreation center and walk around, and that’s a fantastic activity for seniors.”
Wendy Garland, the TAPS program coordinator at Valley Community Services, emphasizes the wide variety of activities available within TAPS: “TAPS offers a number of programs and services. From physical activities and games to nutritious lunches and engaging sessions like singing, yoga, and swimming, pretty much anything that seniors enjoy doing, we do it.”
Supported by funding from BC’s Ministry of Health and administered by United Way BC, TAPS programs are making a significant impact on the lives of seniors, particularly those in need of a supportive and therapeutic environment.
Fostering Community, Easing Isolation
Research from the National Institute on Ageing reveals alarming statistics: up to 41 percent of Canadians aged 50 and older are at risk of social isolation, with 58 percent experiencing loneliness. Social isolation poses risks comparable to smoking, obesity, and other well-known health concerns, underscoring the critical importance of initiatives like TAPS in mitigating these issues.
Lisa Cyr, Regional Community Developer for BC’s Interior, United Way BC Healthy Aging, emphasizes the role of programs like TAPS in combating social isolation: “We recognize that loneliness and social isolation are major contributors to heart disease and dementia among older adults. Providing meaningful interactions through programs like TAPS is crucial for their overall health and well-being.”
United Way BC is dedicated to empowering older adults to maintain their independence and agency, thereby reducing strain on the healthcare system while enhancing seniors’ quality of life.
Creating Lasting Positive Impact
Participants of TAPS programming attest to its transformative effects. Shirley Sparham, a 90-year-old attendee, expresses gratitude for the welcoming atmosphere: “If it wasn’t for TAPS, I would just be at home all day, being on my own. This is a friendly bunch; the people are great.”
Mervyn Syroteuk, 84, echoes this sentiment, highlighting the program’s joyful environment: “I feel very welcome here. These guys are all very joyful, very helpful.”
For caregivers like Jean Syroteuk, TAPS offers invaluable respite: “Coming from a caregiver’s perspective, it gives me time to do things for myself as well that I can’t get done when Mervyn is at home.”
Wendy Garland observes firsthand the positive transformations among participants: “You can really see a change in them. They come in and they may be afraid, and then you see them becoming more confident.”
Participant Eileen Warnock credits TAPS with instilling a positive outlook on life: “TAPS has given me a positive attitude on my life, and it’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me.”
A Vision for Healthy Aging
TAPS is part of United Way BC’s comprehensive strategy to support older adults in maintaining independence and social engagement. Through initiatives like TAPS, United Way BC aims to create meaningful social outlets that enrich the lives of seniors and foster a sense of community.
In the past fiscal year (2023-24), The Province of BC, in collaboration with United Way BC, invested over $2 million in TAPS programming provincewide. This investment underscores the program’s immense value in enhancing the well-being of seniors across British Columbia.
“It’s a fantastic program that brings so much joy to people’s lives,” Cyr affirms. “The volunteers that participate, the seniors that attend, and the staff, it creates this meaningful moment that people look forward to. The transportation is covered, the meal is free, the program is well attended with great enthusiasm.”
To learn more about United Way BC’s Healthy Aging programs, visit uwbc.ca/healthyaging.