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Seniors can find support through 211 and other local organizations

The first instinct many people have during a crisis is to step up and help those in need.

This is not an easy thing when social distancing and self-isolation rules are being practiced in order to keep people safe and stop the spread of COVID-19. However, there are resources in place both locally and provincially that can help people connect with services being offered in Pictou County.

A great tool that people can use is 211 Nova Scotia.

Residents are able to call 211 – a free, confidential information and referral service that can connect people to thousands of programs and services within their local area. It is available throughout the province – 24 hours a day, 365 days a year – by dialing “2-1-1” to speak to a helpful staff member, by searching the easy-to-use online database at or texting 211.

This service is different from 811, which is also a free, provincial referral service, but it is for health-related matters. When someone calls 811, one of its registered nurses will give advice, offer information, and provide reassurance concerning all kinds of general health issues and questions. During the COVID-19 crisis, residents are encouraged to call 811 if they believe they are experiencing symptoms of the virus. 911 continues to be used for emergency and life-threatening situations.

Dian Day, regional coordinator for Community Links, said 211 is a good resource because it has information on a wide range of services and topics. If they don’t have the answer, they are able to connect you with someone in Pictou County who can help answer it.

Day explained that the service provided by 211 is available to anyone but may be especially helpful to seniors. 211 can help familiarize seniors with the services available to them when their normal routines are disrupted.

“It’s true that there are isolated seniors and for those folks in isolation is always a problem and people deal with it on a daily basis and this makes it more challenging,” she said. “But there are also seniors who are very active in their communities who thrive on that and it is what holds them together and those folks will be vulnerable and can’t do normal activities.”

However, she added, Pictou County is very fortunate to have several additional local services available for seniors. If 211 doesn’t have an answer for someone who calls, it will put them in touch with herself, Mary MacLellan with Seniors Outreach, or Barb Dewtie with Pictou County Seniors Safety.

Between these three organization, she is confident all the bases are being covered in getting seniors the information they need, not only on a normal day, but during a pandemic.

Regarding Community Links, it was recently given some emergency funding to help support those trying to get services to older adults.

“Our target is vulnerable adults and those facing long periods of isolation who used to rely on services in the community,” Day said. “There are lots of people who are already mobilizing to get service to those people. We are supporting organizations who are supporting people."

Existing community groups or volunteer groups (fire stations, ladies' auxiliaries, women’s institutes, neighbourhood groups, local meals on wheels programs, etc.), are eligible to apply. Funds may pay for things like hand sanitizer for volunteers, gas money for meal or prescription delivery, for just a few examples. The money is being administered from Community Links central office to be distributed throughout the province.

Mary MacLellan with Pictou County Seniors Outreach said she has been checking in with local municipal councillors as well as other seniors in communities to make sure they are handling the current situation well.

“We are all trying to work together and do the best we can,” she said. “What I know, I am trying to tell them.”

Pictou County’s Senior Safety Coordinator Barb Smith works closely with Pictou County Seniors Outreach to make sure seniors are getting to appointments, errands run, items picked up, and bills paid.

“I had a senior man call today and he wanted me to book him an appointment for blood work. This morning I took a senior to the bank and paid a bill for another senior. Then I went to the Superstore and picked up two small orders,” she said. “I think at this point more of our calls are about wellness. People are scared, anxiety is high, and they don’t know what they can do and what stores are open.”

The Senior Safety Program also received provincial funding to help vulnerable people in need and it will be reaching out to local councillors to find out who might be willing to volunteer to help others in their communities.

For more information on any of these services contact: or call 211 Community Links – Dian Day, 485-6888 Seniors Outreach – Mary MacLellan - 902-755-1123 Pictou County Seniors Safety Coordinator Barb Smith - 902-755-2886

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