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In Canada, the Red Cross is working to support the country’s aging population.

For many Canadians, mention of the Red Cross conjures up images of aid workers on television screens helping victims in disaster zones around the world. While that’s one of the organization’s key roles globally, other less heralded efforts to help society’s most vulnerable are equally important.

In Canada for example, the Red Cross is investing in health innovation and risk reduction to support Canada’s aging population.

“This work is deeply grounded in research-based initiatives that focus on distinct groups of vulnerable Canadians,” says Tanya Elliott, vice president of the Red Cross in Ontario. “As is our mission, we are taking steps to understand the needs of these individuals and help them access the supports and activities that can improve their overall health and wellness.”

The program is supported by partners in academia, community organizations and the private sector, which allows the Red Cross to combine its unique understanding and expertise in supporting vulnerable people with the mobilization of technology and volunteers, adds Ms. Elliott.

“Canadians look to us where capacity is needed to bring hope and a way forward for people in need,” she says. “Our work with our aging population is no different. For example, we can alleviate social isolation and loneliness through our network of volunteers who can play a vital role in supporting Canada’s seniors.”

Activities can be as simple as a friendly visit or telephone check-in or connecting individuals with community supports structures. Pilot programs are well underway thanks to the investment of donor partners, says Ms. Elliott.

“Our services are focused on promoting health and wellness, and we strive to look holistically at not only the needs of our clients, but also their family and caregivers,” says Ms. Elliott.

One example is the innovative community health program the Red Cross operates in northern Ontario called Priority Assistance to Transition Home (PATH) that assists seniors in making the transition from hospital to home safely and comfortably.

Launched in 2013 in partnership with the North East Local Health Integration Network in 25 hospitals in northern Ontario, the program has since expanded to more hospitals and reached more clients in those communities.

Following a client’s return home from hospital, trained workers help to remove barriers that would prevent the client from continuing to live independently at home, which decreases the likelihood of visits to the emergency department. In addition to escorted transportation home, services may include obtaining and education around prescriptions, providing a light meal, arranging for snow removal, groceries, follow up the next day, and connections to other community resources.

PATH workers act as community connectors, often going above and beyond to identify and address any barriers that could potentially prevent a client from returning home. The Red Cross works with the clients, their caregivers, the hospital discharge team, as well as other community organizations to ensure a quick discharge from hospital and a successful stay at home.

“We are evaluating our outcomes and learnings from projects that are underway,” says Ms. Elliott, noting that philanthropy can play a key role in expanding their reach. “There are exciting opportunities ahead as we look to bring these solutions to even more communities across Canada.”

Produced by Randall Anthony Communications. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved in its creation.

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