A Dartmouth-based co-operative is helping entrepreneurs who work with seniors and their families connect, network and share business advice. The Serving Seniors Alliance Co-operative got its start in 2005 when a group of local businesses decided they’d work together as a collective for seniors.
The co-operative serves Dartmouth, Halifax, Bedford and Sackville areas.
Marie-Claire Chartrand is the owner of Greywave Senior Care Consulting, which helps seniors and their families navigate resources and situations such as long-term care. The former social worker joined the co-operative after hearing about it from another member.
“We like to call it a Better Business Bureau for seniors,” Chartrand says. “It helps me to have trustworthy companies I can refer to.”
There are currently about 30 members in the co-operative, including charities, non-profits, program providers, small businesses and community groups. The co-operative is always recruiting for new members. Those interested in membership must submit an application, along with references. The application is reviewed by the co-operative’s board and applicants take part in an interview. Members are approved by a vote.
The co-operative offers exclusivity for its members; that means there’s only one firm for each particular service. The co-operative has an ethics committee that addresses any issues from clients of the member businesses. The members meet twice a month. Members also share marketing opportunities, such as taking part in trade shows or advertising in local publications.
With one phone call, seniors and their families can be connected to a wide variety of resources they may need. Chartrand says seniors may have a tough time finding resources because they don’t know where to look. The co-operative, she says, offers one-stop shopping.
“Even if you are internet savvy, there’s no collection of information,” she says. “There’s no one providing this kind of trustworthy service.”
The co-operative also advocates on behalf of seniors on issues such as Pharmacare rates and health care. The co-operative hosts workshops and presentations to seniors’ groups on issues like fraud prevention, fall prevention, legal issues and reverse mortgages.
Yvonne lePair owns lePair Travel and provides travel services to seniors who have concerns, such as accessibility, when they travel. She joined the co-operative in May.
“I think it’s great for networking,” she says. “I have a lot of people I know I can refer to other businesses and vice versa. It seems to have worked well.”
Bill VanGorder joined the co-operative from the beginning and is now a member with his group, Nordic Walking Nova Scotia. He says membership in the co-operative has helped him with networking and learning technologies, including social media, to promote Nordic walking for seniors.
“We all understand each other well, but also bring in expertise from outside,” VanGorder says. “It’s a tremendous way to find out what’s happening in the seniors’ community.”
LePair says going to conferences allows members to learn more about issues surrounding seniors. Seniors compromise a large age group, anywhere from 55 and older. Their needs are different as well. Some seniors are more active than others, while others are socially isolated. Some seniors will need different types of care.
“There are a lot of folks out there who don’t know how to manoeuvre the systems and find their way,” lePair says. “I just enjoy helping people and seeing the outcome. Sometimes it doesn’t take much. Sometimes it takes a fair amount of support.”
For more information, visit servingseniors.info or call 902-499-4122.