After 15 years of advocating for seniors’ issues across the Highlands, the Aging Well Haliburton County volunteer committee has ceased operations.

The organization has struggled to attract new members in recent years, forcing the executive into a decision it didn’t want to make, says long-time volunteer Margery Cartwright.

“It’s been a struggle these past few years. Through the pandemic, we’ve been down to five or six members. We knew this was coming unless we could find some new people to join, who could bring some fresh ideas to the table,” Cartwright said. “We’re hoping the fire will go on elsewhere now, for someone else to pick up the baton.”

Aging Well Haliburton County was formed in 2008, and was initially a collaboration between the Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge (HKPR) district health unit and the Haliburton Highlands Family Health Team. Its mandate was to tackle fall prevention in the community, but quickly morphed to include a slew of senior-related issues.

Cartwright joined in 2009, shortly after the group published a community survey looking for feedback on local issues that needed to be addressed. Even back then, a lack of housing was identified as a primary concern.

The organization made connections with non-profit Places for People (P4P) to see what work could be done collaboratively to boost the Highlands’ housing supply. The two groups joined forces to host a housing forum in Minden in 2018, which Cartwright believes was a success.

Because of that connection, Aging Well decided to donate the remaining balance of its bank account, almost $1,000, to P4P to assist with ongoing housing projects. President Jody Curry said the money would likely be used to pay off some of the organization’s debt.

The money was originally earmarked for a retirement workshop Aging Well was planning to host in the fall of 2020, but the event had to be cancelled due to the COVID19 pandemic.

Heather May has been an active member since 2009, telling The Highlander the organization led various educational and fundraising campaigns over the years, helping to bring money in to pay for outdoor rest benches in downtown Haliburton, encouraging organizations like LifeLabs to install automatic doors, and advocating for ‘stop the gap ramps’ and ‘assistance request’ buttons for downtown businesses.

The group is also responsible for the installation of handrails at the Northern Lights Performing Arts Pavilion, while Cartwright has helped shape new “senior-friendly” policies at the Haliburton County Public Library.

“We had our fingers in so many pies because the pie was broken,” May said. “We did what we could over the years to serve this community, and suggest improvements that would benefit everybody.”

While saying the dissolution of the group was bittersweet, Cartwright felt it was inevitable given the lack of community engagement in recent times.

“The community is moving on. There has been some backsliding with some of the things we’ve done, but I still look back at many, many things with a lot of pride. This community is full of movers and shakers, I have full confidence things will go on, and important issues will continue to be addressed,” she said.