Social Prescribing – Living Well in YOUR Community

Portrait of white haired senior man teaching his grandson woodwork sitting at table in studio. Photo submitted by SSM.

Linda Anderson, Saskatchewan Seniors Mechanism

Social prescribing is a way for physicians and health care workers and others front line supports to connect patients/clients to a range of nonclinical services in the community to help improve the health and well-being of individuals.

Social prescribing can help to address the underlying causes of a patient’s/client’s health and well-being issues, as opposed to simply treating the symptoms that arise from non-medical issues.

It promotes integrated community-based support and care and helps to reduce some of the dependance on health service provisions. Social prescribing can be used to refer patients to a variety of activities and services within or near to the community in which a person resides.

Exact “social prescriptions” are specific to an individual, community or care setting, but typically they include services providing support in mental health, social inclusion, practical home supports, financial and housing advice, as well as activities promoting physical activity and creative self-expression.

In the most common model, physicians, primary health care providers and front-line support staff can refer a patient/client to specialized “Community Connectors” who collaborate with clients to identify their social needs. These community connectors typically collaborate with the individual to codesign personalized plans to improve the individual’s well-being, and routinely follow up with the individual to monitor their progress.

A grandmother and granddaughter pose for a photo. Andrea Piaquadio/

Social prescribing is not an intervention by itself, but rather a pathway that helps address the individual’s needs. The community connector model will be unique to each community that takes on the model.

The aim is to ensure that older adults can live and thrive in their own homes and communities with access to activities, services and support they need. Social prescribing will address the social determinants of health and well being including safety, security, quality of life, and an ability to choose how and where to live.  Social Prescribing will be most effective as Home Supports are developed throughout Saskatchewan. Home Supports provide Real Options, Better Outcomes and Lower Costs.

Provincial investment along with municipal collaboration and organization will be necessary to establish Home Supports in communities. Older adults’ independence and activity as they age is the foundation for better health and well-being. Costs to individuals could be subsidized according to income, with many paying full price for dependable services and some paying on a sliding scale. The data from other places proves that the cost of investing in Home Supports is about one-third the cost of paying to keep older adults in residential long term care!

Supporting older people so they can remain in their communities also provides immense benefits to the community — through consumer activity, volunteer contributions, experienced paid and unpaid workers and ongoing sharing of wisdom and care for others.

Find out more about Social Prescribing and Home Supports and how those initiatives can make a major difference for individuals and communities.