Henrie de Boer and Martin Wayenberg connected through the Better at Home program in Agassiz.

Helping seniors stay happy and healthy at home

Better at Home program offers light housekeeping, transportation help and friendly visitors for seniors in Agassiz, Harrison area

It was supposed to be their golden years.

Martin Wayenberg and his wife Rita sold their motel in Cache Creek for a tidy profit and moved to Harrison Hot Springs to retire in 2005. They did some traveling, enjoyed multiple cruises and settled into life in a new community. But then Rita was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. She got worse and worse, finally ending up in Cheam Village, a complex care centre in Agassiz.

Martin Wayenberg was left alone, wondering what to do with himself and the 2,000 square foot home they had bought. His children, thinking it best for their aging father, helped him move into a senior’s home at the age of 84.

But, says Wayenberg, “I’m too young for an old age home.”

After eight months, he bought a trailer and moved out.

Wayenberg is independent and does all his own shopping, cooking and cleaning. His home is spotless and his two small dogs look well cared for and content.

What was a little more challenging for Wayenberg when he moved into the trailer was a sense of security and community. He feared the possibility of something happening to him and no one realizing he was gone. He tried having someone live in his home to keep an eye on him but that didn’t work out.

Finally, Wayenberg heard about the Better at Homes program, run through Agassiz-Harrison Community Services. Better at Home is a program that helps seniors continue living independently in their own homes. They provide support services such as light housekeeping, transportation and friendly visits.

Shortly after contacting Community Services, Wayenberg and Henrie de Boer were paired up as a client – friendly visitor duo.

“I am happy now,” says Wayenberg. “She likes to come here, and I’m glad she’s coming here.”

It’s a well-suited match for both of them. Wayenberg loves the security of knowing someone is checking in on him. He likes to sit and share stories of the old days in Holland. He doesn’t feel so alone, and he is happy to have a visitor multiple times a week.

This is de Boer’s first “client” as a friendly visitor. Volunteers are asked to visit with a client for one hour a week. But she enjoys the time they spend together and comes multiple times a week to visit. She encourages Wayenberg to get out of the house to go on outings. Every Friday evening, they share dinner together. This has developed into a true friendship and the pair mutually benefit from the connection.

“We’ve been very well matched, which is a lovely thing,” says de Boer.

For de Boer, it’s a chance to have a senior citizen in her life with her same Dutch roots. Her immediate family moved from Holland, leaving all their extended family behind. de Boer never had a grandparent nearby to be part of her day-to-day life so she finds herself drawn to senior citizens.

But more than that, it has helped de Boer cope with the recent loss of her husband. Being part of the Better at Home program gives de Boer a renewed focus in her life, to move her away from a place of grief. And she knows it helps Wayenberg too.

“Social connections are so key for seniors,” shares de Boer. “We live in a society where we put old folks ‘over there’. I still believe in how much seniors contribute to this world and that we must include them in our daily lives.”

Wayenberg says every time de Boer leaves, he asks when she will be back. And every time, it isn’t long before she is.

Agassiz resident Marlene Jankovits is another client in the Better at Home program. She has just signed up to receive some light housekeeping help. Jankovits has a bad back and both her knees are “gone,” leaving her unable to bend. She has hired various housekeepers but had problems with their service. Finally, she ran out of options. That’s when a friend told her about Better at Home.

“Now, I will have someone come in once a month to wash my floors and maybe do a few other things around my house,” says Jankovits. “It will help a tremendous amount.”

Fiona Delcourt, program co-ordinator for Better at Home services, says it is clients like Wayenberg and Jankovits that show how valuable of a program this is in helping to keep seniors in their homes, where they want to be. Space is limited so she urges anyone who wants to know more to contact her.

“We still have space available,” says Delcourt. “If you’re 65 years and older, you qualify.”

Seniors pay fees for some services, based on their income. If you are interested in helping out with the Better at Home program or signing up for services, contact Fiona Delcourt at 604-796-2585 or email betterathome@agassizcs.ca