The SAIL office can put seniors in touch with the help they need

Seniors Resource Councils provides the senior community with help for everyday issues.

In Virden, Seniors Access to Independent Living, or SAIL, is just a call away and the coordinator, Leona Joseph, can help with a variety of needs, from getting a LifeLine device to finding a ride to an appointment or arranging Meals-on-Wheels.

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Have you thought about hiring someone to help out with yard work, or window washing - those tough tasks? It can be lonely making dinner for one, or two, day after day.

Sometimes life gets … heavy, and for that, SAIL is specially designed to enable seniors to continue to live independently.

SAIL is an umbrella organization with the main office located in the Virden Health Centre

As the SAIL coordinator, Joseph cares for the needs of Virden seniors living in their own homes or in Bolton Place or Kin Place. She also offers support for other SAIL offices in the area.

Another service known as Supports to Seniors in Group Living (SSGL) dovetails with SAIL. Audrey Waters serves that role in Princess Lodge and in Evergreen Place, all a part of the SAIL program.

Also part of SAIL, in Elkhorn, Sonja Cameron has an office on the medical side of Elkwood Manor. Tanis Podobni takes care of seniors’ needs in Oak Lake, working out of Oakwood Place.

SAIL is operated by a board of directors with representatives from each community.

The purpose of Senior Services offices is to enable people to stay in their homes longer, independently, safely.

LifeLines Medical Alert System is an important program. With the push of a button it can bring help from family or a friend if the senior falls.

The SAIL office takes plenty of calls, some from families inquiring about services available to their senior family members, such as meals or transportation. Some calls are from seniors.

Joseph says, “LifeLine, Meals-on-Wheels, help with laundry, housekeeping or yard work, are all services that would enable people to stay in their own home because nobody wants to move if they don’t have to.

“Manitoba has the Age in Place initiative, so they want you to stay in your own home with whatever assistance you need.”

For transportation, the SAIL office puts seniors in touch with a good neighbour. “Many people don’t drive anymore but still want to stay in their homes.”

When people have appointments, sometimes as far away as Winnipeg or Regina, they need transportation. SAIL finds the transportation.

Volunteer drivers are reimbursed for their gas and wear and tear on their vehicle, and perhaps a meal if they are away that long.

Miniota Municipal Service to Seniors has its own Resource Council. Christa Nash has an office in the Miniota Drop In Centre. She coordinates help and recreation for the senior community. The drop in itself is a gathering place for recreation.

Nash keeps in touch with Virden’s SAIL coordinator. She says of Joseph, “If I have a question, she’s my go-to. If I am having [an event] on, or if she does, we get in touch.”

Kenton’s Woodworth Seniors Services, is located in Kenton’s RM of Wallace-Woodworth office space. Karen Anderson works there three days a week.

She’s happy to announce the Kenton Social Club will start up again on Tuesday afternoon in November and run through April. A variety market next week, Thursday Sept. 12, will include the sale of donated produce and a barbecue to raise money for that program.


Leona, a colourful personality and dedicated SAIL coordinator

Leona Joseph has been SAIL coordinator in Virden for two decades.She is passionate about her job, one that she says, has been a “learn as you go type job.” She says there’s no specific training for her role, but, “People can be wonderful teachers, because everybody is different.”

For some, Joseph is best known for her clear country vocals. She sang and played guitar with a large group of musicians over the years. Of late, Joseph’s group, the L-Tones has consisted of fiddler Len Downer, guitar/vocalist Larry Gabrielle – the three Ls. “The three of us can do lots of smaller events,” she says. These include entertaining seniors.

“However,” she says, “We do have a bass player and drummer that we can pull in as needed.”

Joseph, an Elkhorn area farm resident says, “Everybody wants a job where you feel, at the end of the day, you’ve done something good for people. How I’ve always felt about this job is, ‘Wow, I get paid for this! For making people happy.’”

She thinks that her upbringing as an only child was partly responsible for the caregiver mentality that serves her so well in her role.

Joseph credits her parents saying, “This was the last gift that they gave me… They had a lot of older friends, so I kind of grew up in that environment. With Grandpa and Grandma as well, we took care of them on the farm. As Mum and Dad grew older and I helped them, that kind of prepared me for this.”

Her career with SAIL began in Elkhorn, working half-time.

Before her, Thelma Forbes initiated the SAIL program in Virden, but she was retiring.

“She asked me if I would consider coming to work down in Virden. I talked it over with my husband. So I came down here, got to know people, and it has worked out very well.”

Joseph feels that older people have a lot to offer. In her words, “They’ve cut through, they’ve lived life. You learn so much from them. You visit with them, they are a wealth of knowledge.”

Joseph is a vivacious lady who is not afraid of colour and who brings a lot of energy to her job. She says, “I love working with seniors.” She loves their stories, rich in history of the region and of a by-gone day when people took more time with their neighbours and friends.

© Virden Empire-Advance