The Edmonton Seniors Centre (ESC) can be found in the Edmonton General Hospital, located in the Oliver neighbourhood (at 11111 Jasper Avenue).
Incorporated in 1976, it went by a different moniker for its first three decades in existence: West Edmonton Seniors. The centre removed the reference to the west end in 2005, becoming simply Edmonton Seniors Centre.
Its evolution goes well beyond its name – as the needs of seniors evolve, ESC continues to adapt to provide the opportunities and support it is known for.
For example, clientele are turning to Edmonton Seniors Centre staff to help connect them and guide them through the digital landscape.
The centre’s Co-Executive Director, Linda Ensley, says she saw the writing on the wall as the pandemic rounded the corner in March 2020. As caseloads increased dramatically around the globe, Ensley knew her team would need to reimagine seniors programming for a digital space…and fast!
2020 saw a large migration of older adults to online platforms. Since the beginning, the team at Edmonton Seniors Centre has helped older adults acclimate to the new environment.
ESC’s inroads into the digital landscape are numerous. They include technology coaching for popular online platforms, scam identification training in partnership with the Edmonton Police Service, and the development of a new, user-friendly website to help older Edmontonians find and register for programs with ease.
Furthermore, to ensure a regular stream of virtual programming, the centre introduced “ESCTVYEG”—a free online streaming service. The streaming service offers informative, educational, and entertaining content for older adults and is easily accessible—just click and play on any digital device.
Evaluating older adults’ understanding and comprehension of digital technology was key in developing a robust response. While there are many tech savvy seniors, some—particularly the older seniors—struggled to make the transition online. To this end, the centre hosted workshops to help seniors use digital technology, and to evaluate challenges.
Community feedback made it clear usability was a prime concern. When asked to “hover the mouse” over a link, one participant held her mouse up to her computer screen. Still, in a phonetic mix-up about web “URLs”, another woman was perplexed why “urinals” should be so important for accessing the internet, finally lamenting, “why do you guys keep talking about urinals? I'm a woman! I don't even have a man in this house, let alone a urinal.”
To address this barrier, Ensley and the Edmonton Seniors Centre team created dedicated focus groups—five groups of five people each—to vet content and eliminate jargon to help seniors make the move online.
In addition to connecting seniors to programs during the pandemic, Edmonton Seniors Centre has enhanced its impact through collaboration efforts.
The YEG Seniors Alliance is a partnership between Edmonton Seniors Centre, Westend Seniors Activity Centre, and the ICAN Seniors Alliance. By leveraging their networks, the collective can reach more seniors than they would individually. Additionally, the centres actively share data to gauge what the needs are and provide programming that meets those needs.
Working together, the YEG Seniors Alliance also has greater capacity to put on special events. Just this year, the Alliance hosted a successful virtual Health & Wellness Conference, drawing out a crowd of 164 participants and raising over $5,000 in sponsorship proceeds to be funneled back into programming for older adults.
Ensley notes the success of Edmonton Seniors Centre is multifaceted, saying the centre’s approach is “analytics with heart, data with heart”.
“You can't make decisions just on data, you just can't,” she explains. “You have to make decisions on data, best practices, and heart. Because if you leave any one of those things out, your decision is always going to fall short.”
For more information on Edmonton Seniors Centre: www.edmontonseniorscentre.ca