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'Aging is not for wimps': Seniors' centre helps older residents thrive

Wellington County's Seniors’ Centre of Excellence helps to empower adults to live their best life by supporting and promoting an active, connected and engaged lifestyle with a variety of services and programs
The Seniors’ Centre of Excellence holds 'High Tea' in June.

“Aging is not for wimps,” says Helen Edwards, Seniors’ Centre of Excellence program coordinator in Mapleton Township.

“It’s a privilege. There are people who don’t get to be 80 and sometimes even 60. And some people don't ever even retire.”

The Seniors’ Centre of Excellence helps to empower adults to live their best life by supporting and promoting an active, connected, and engaged lifestyle with a variety of services and programs.  

Located on the lower level of the Mapleton Community Health Centre, the Seniors' Centre offers services in the Township of Mapleton, the Town of Minto, and the Township of Wellington North. It is funded by the Ontario Health Integration Network.

“The Seniors’ Centre of Excellence has been in existence since 2008. We work with community based older adults to provide activities, both in-person and virtually,” Edwards said.

“Since COVID-19, we offer Zoom sessions twice a week. We try to get a wide variety of speakers that appeal to different people.”

Edwards says a very eager bunch look forward to the Zoom meetings each week.

“They are often referred to as the ‘Zoom Family'. And It really does feel like a family atmosphere where people enjoy checking in with each other,” Edwards said.

“We have people who attend from other provinces just because they have a local connection. We welcome anyone who has access to the internet to join in any of our virtual programming.”

Edwards says this is an ideal way to stay connected, especially during the winter months.

“Winter can of course be a challenging time to get out and about. This way, people can learn and have that social connection, right from their own homes,” she said.

Seniors’ Centre of Excellence also offers a homemaking program that covers the North end of Centre Wellington as well as Fergus and Elora.

The cost is $22.50 per hour for seniors and/or people with disabilities.

“That has been very successful. Services include light housekeeping, meal preparation, or help with laundry. Sometimes, people are just starting to experience issues with mobility. Perhaps their laundry is in this basement, which is not ideal,” Edwards said.

“We try to help as much as we can in those ways.”

The centre also connects seniors and their caregivers with important community home care services. 

“We can help connect them with other services that they might need. Recently in Fergus for a homemaking visit, there was a gentleman who really needed some foot care done. I was able to reach out to a foot care nurse to make sure he was taken care of,” Edwards said.

The centre welcomes adults, 55 years of age and older, to participate in various social programs, exercise opportunities, and community events.

“We've hosted celebratory events like our High Tea back in June, a most successful Seniors’ Bazaar in Mapleton last year, and we are anticipating great things at our upcoming Seniors’ Fair in the fall, and so much more,” said Seniors’ Centre for Excellence, Active, Connected, Engaged coordinator. Glynis Belec.

“We are connected to the Community Resource Centre of North and Centre Wellington and many of our seniors are recipients or participants in the annual Chilfest.”

The Seniors’ Centre of Excellence is currently working on a soon to be released wellness calendar with a focus on frauds and scams.

“It's due to be out at the end of September. All of the artwork has been donated by local older adults. The Wellness calendar is full of tips and stories about fraud prevention,” Edwards said.

“We want promote aging as a positive thing by trying to build community and promote aging. We recognize that there are challenges to getting older, but we also know that 80 does not look the same for everyone. As a group, we focus on the positive parts of aging.”

Edwards says it’s important to push back any negative and anti aging messages that people often find themselves bombarded with.

“It’s about challenging people’s thinking about the aging process itself with positive aging messages, but not sugar-coating aging either,” she said.

“If I forget where my keys are, my ‘go to’ is automatically that I am getting old and am I getting dementia rather than maybe I was distracted when I put my keys down, or maybe I had a lot on my mind. It’s about challenging that thought process.”

Each month, the Centre creates and publishes a newsletter, Heart and Soul of Wellington, which includes a calendar of upcoming events for the month, and senior focused information such as recipes, the pet of the month, health news, jokes and stories.

“We mail out about 250 a month, and we have about 500 people who receive them electronically,” Edwards said.

“Lots of seniors are savvy on the computer now. This was one of the silver linings, post COVID-19, where many people had the opportunity to embrace technology.”

Anyone interested can e-mail the Seniors’ Centre of Excellence at [email protected] or call (519) 638-1000 if they prefer a paper copy.

“Someone once told me that when they received our newsletter, it was like receiving a letter from a good friend or a card in the mail. And that was so lovely to hear,” Edwards said.

“People really do look forward to the newsletter.  People can connect that way or attend one of our Zoom sessions. If they are interested, we can add them to our list and they will receive regular invitations.”

Last week, a professor from Simon Fraser University talked about the importance of social connections to health. Next week on Zoom, a woman will share her very extensive Barbie collection that goes back many years.

“We try to have a wide variety to suit different interests so that something appeals to everyone,” Edwards said.

“We are committed to providing seniors with opportunities to be engaged and we recognize the value that our older adults have in the community.”