How snow removal programs can help seniors stay safe and connected

Person shoveling snow with a snow shovel

How snow removal programs can help seniors stay safe and connected

When seniors and people with disabilities are not able to shovel their driveways any more there could be serious consequences for them. Fortunately, many community agencies across Ontario offer snow shoveling programs. A few programs are free if it is supported by volunteers. Some programs charge a fee. Occasionally, a community agency is able to provide a reduced fee. It can vary from agency to agency across Ontario’s communities.

Without snow removal, the risk for slips and falls – a leading cause of injury for older adults – is higher, says Laurie Elliott Leach, the Program Manager of Safety at Home, a fall prevention program run by Community Support Services of Niagara. Cleared driveways and walkways enable PSWs, family, or paramedics to easily gain access to seniors’ homes, adds Elliott Leach, who oversees the Leaf & Snow Buddies program, which matches older adults and people with disabilities to volunteer snow shovelers.

“We try to explain to volunteers the impact that a snow-filled driveway can have on a senior,” she says. “If a driveway looks too risky to walk on, they may not receive homecare or transportation to medical appointments.”

Providing a neighbourly connection

Seniors can also be vulnerable to loneliness and isolation after an onslaught of snow, adds Snow Buddies Coordinator Darlene Upper. “In the wintertime people don’t get out as much,” she says. “Our snow removal program means that seniors will at least be able to go out on their front porch and say ‘hello’ to their buddy.”

She points out that the Snow Buddy program helps build relationships between seniors and volunteers. Some volunteers – most of whom are students – shovel snow for the same client throughout high school. In a video produced for Community Support Services of Niagara, one senior refers to her snow buddy as “the kind of grandson I would like.”

Before student volunteers begin, Upper provides them with an orientation that focuses on safety. Among other things, she encourages volunteers to contact her if they notice anything unusual, such as, newspapers piling up on the porch of their clients.

Snow shovelers needed!

There is an overwhelming demand for the Snow Buddies service in the Niagara Region –250 clients are on the wait list, which is now closed. “I would love for every client to have a volunteer, but that wouldn’t be realistic,” says Upper. “If I could get at least half of them off the wait list, that would be great.”

Not surprisingly, Snow Buddies, which served 40 clients last year, is looking to increase its volunteers. (Call 905-682-3800, ext. 35, if interested.) Unlike some other snow removal programs in Ontario, there’s no minimum age requirement – it’s up to the parent’s discretion. As with most programs, high school students who volunteer may obtain community services hours for school credit.

Other Ontario snow removal programs

Here are a few examples of other snow shoveling programs in Ontario. The Town of Tecumseh delivers a similar leaf and snow removal program, while Chatham’s Snow Angels, offer comparable snow removal services but without leaf raking. Some programs like the City of Brantford’s only offer free removal of windrows (the piles of snow left at the bottom of driveways after the snowplow passes), while Oakville will remove windrows for a fee.

The Snow Go Assist Program by The Good Companions, offered in Ottawa and Rural Ottawa South, uses another model. They match residents to private contractors or snow shovelers, in some cases offering financial help to pay part of the costs. Brampton’s Snow Removal Assistance Program provides qualified residents grants of up to $300 to go towards snow removal costs. Then too, Snow Angels London offers something a little different: an online tool to connect those who need help with shoveling snow with volunteers available in the community.

  • To find out about the details of snow removal programs in your community, call 2-1-1.
  • You can also chat online with 211 through the link at the top of this page, Monday to Friday from 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.
  • Or you can enter ‘snow shoveling’ and your municipality in our main search box on home page to see if there are snow removal programs near you.


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