Aging Together as Community continuing to take shape

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The Aging Together as Community – Haliburton Highlands project has been bolstered by a $22,500 New Horizons for Seniors Grant, co-leads Bonnie Roe and David Buwalda say.

During a March 4 gathering at the West Guilford Community Centre, with 42 attendees in-person and virtual, the two said the funds will cover costs around marketing, event planning, website development, evaluation and more. The grant is available for one year starting this March.

The group held its inaugural meeting Jan. 28.

This time around, Roe and Buwalda said participants were asked to consider what would be possible to achieve one year from now. “We put our heads together to imagine the lives of seniors changed, in any way, as a result of our efforts.” They said the outcome was some strong, connected ideas.

“Each table group shared a similar idea of building a central ‘hub’ for seniors’ information and networking. Many groups emphasized how seniors’ content would be more available in local media a year from now – and perhaps it is our group writing it. There was strong support for devising a resource to help seniors help other seniors in the community,” Roe and Buwalda said.

So far, they have come up with aims for how they will support seniors; activities to move forward and advice to help them on their way.

For example, one aim is to provide a platform for seniors to share resources, hire help, and learn about programs. To that end, Roe’s working group has put together a list of seniors’ resources that will be accessible and shareable. They want to keep that list updated.

They hope to establish a well-informed lobby group, with a seminar series on aging-well topics. Working groups will continue to share their findings, too. This could lead to presentations to councils or bringing politicians to meetings.

Another aim is to share information on alternative housing models, such as Oakview Lodge’s co-living arrangement.

They want to build a website. It is also about building relationships with other groups.

Buwalda said, “it is a community project to become a place to inform and support seniors and people who are interested in supporting seniors, and people who have a reason to care across the County.

“It is not something that has a long-term kind of organizational approach. It is not like, ‘in five years, we’re going to do this’. It is really assets-based, what do we have in the community? Who’s in the community that’s bringing people together? It’s almost like a community of practice, where people who have a reason to be interested get to come and share. In doing so, we get to really try and address some of the ageism that we have found. Some of the issues just persist around long-term care and care in general for seniors.”

Roe acknowledged there are supports, such as Community Support Services, and CARP, but they are limited.

“One of the things we wanted to do from the very beginning was to look at, what could we do differently? How could we address the culture of aging, to make it more positive? And one where age or aging is respected within the community?”

She added the project really started in June 2022 with discussions about more people-centred long-term care or aging in place. She said the question became, “what do we need to age in place?” She said that is where the seniors helping seniors idea, for example, came up March 4. “There are a lot of able-bodied individuals, young and old, who can offer support.”

Roe said she has already held discussions with HHHS about things such as painting walls in long-term care homes to make them more colourful. They’ve talked to Extendicare about their eventual expansion in Haliburton.

Buwalda said, “ultimately, it is to allow people to have a place to come together, find ways to talk about aging, and make new connections that they can maybe develop projects around. So, there is no set order. We are a community group offering opportunities to work together.”

To contact the project, email agingtogetherhc@gmail.com or go to their Facebook Group page.

The next meeting is April 14, 1:30-4 p.m., at a location yet to be announced.