Se­niors’ fair a pos­i­tive step

Pla­cen­tia and area far from age-friendly, say or­ga­niz­ers

The Compass - - FRONT PAGE - BY TERRY ROBERTS

Like most re­gions of this prov­ince, se­niors make up a large pro­por­tion of the pop­u­la­tion in the Pla­cen­tia re­gion. But the area is far from age-friendly, say or­ga­niz­ers of a fair and ex­hi­bi­tion ded­i­cated to help­ing change that sit­u­a­tion.

“We do very lit­tle for our se­niors,” ad­mit­ted Win­nie Barry, the driv­ing force be­hind the in­au­gu­ral Pla­cen­tia Bay Age-Friendly Se­niors’ Fair and Ex­hi­bi­tion.

“We are by no means age-friendly.”

That blunt as­sess­ment came as the fair and ex­hi­bi­tion, staged at the Star of Sea Hall in Pla­cen­tia on Oct. 22-23, was get­ting un­der­way.

The highly suc­cess­ful event is a first tan­gi­ble step to­wards show­ing se­niors the sup­port they so richly de­serve, said Barry. It was a mes­sage echoed by many oth­ers at the event.

Plenty of sup­port

With fi­nan­cial sup­port from the pro­vin­cial and fed­eral gov­ern­ments, and the lo­cal busi­ness com­mu­nity and se­niors’ groups, se­ri­ous plan­ning for the event got un­der­way about two months ago.

But the seed was first planted in Barry’s mind in Jan­uary, when she learned that a sim­i­lar fair and ex­hi­bi­tion had taken place in Grand Falls-Wind­sor.

Some­thing sim­i­lar could be done in Pla­cen­tia, she thought, and she knew just the or­ga­ni­za­tion to spear­head the con­cept.

Barry is of­fice ad­min­is­tra­tor with the Pla­cen­tia Area Cham­ber of Com­merce, an or­ga­ni­za­tion that rep­re­sents some 200-plus busi­nesses in the area.

She broached the idea with the cham­ber ex­ec­u­tive, and was thrilled by the pos­i­tive re­sponse.

With fi­nan­cial sup­port from agen­cies such as the pro­vin­cial de­part­ments of Health and Com­mu­nity Ser­vices and Ad­vanced Ed­u­ca­tion and Skills, the fed­eral At­lantic Canada Op­por­tu­ni­ties Agency, and un­wa­ver­ing co-op­er­a­tion from the town, var­i­ous busi­nesses and groups, the event came to­gether nicely, said Barry.

A spe­cial ad­vi­sory com­mit­tee com­prised of about a dozen peo­ple, chaired by re­tired ed­u­ca­tor Des Line­han, over­saw the plan­ning.

Af­ter some ini­tial con­cerns about whether area se­niors would par­tic­i­pate in such an event, or­ga­niz­ers could only smile with de­light as a lineup formed at the reg­is­tra­tion ta­ble on Day 1.

The doors opened at 10 a.m. on Oct. 22, and within min­utes, the park­ing lot was full and some 100plus peo­ple — mostly se­niors — could be seen milling about the ex­hi­bi­tion, and later tak­ing part in the of­fi­cial launch.

Among them was 85-year-old Dunville res­i­dent Mar­ion Tem­ple­man, one of many ac­tive and vi­brant se­niors in the area.

She came with a spe­cial in­ter­est in topics such as home sup­port and di­a­betes man­age­ment, and was very grate­ful that such an em­pha­sis was be­ing placed on trans­form­ing Pla­cen­tia into an age-friendly com­mu­nity.

“This is very nice,” Tem­ple­man stated as she browsed through the booths.

Tremen­dous con­tri­bu­tion

The event fea­tured two days of pre­sen­ta­tions on topics per­ti­nent to se­niors, in­clud­ing liv­ing with di­a­betes, the ben­e­fits of nu­traceu­ti­cal prod­ucts, deal­ing with be­reave­ment, elder abuse and dis­cus­sions about ways to make com­mu­ni­ties age-friendly.

There were some two dozens booths set up at the ex­hi­bi­tion, spot­light­ing var­i­ous ser­vices, or­ga­ni­za­tions and busi­nesses that cater to se­niors.

“Se­niors have made tremen­dous con­tri­bu­tions to our prov­ince,” Pla­cen­tia-St. Mary’s MHA Felix Collins told those at kick-off cer­e­mony.

He quipped that ag­ing is a “fatal disease,” but stressed that it can be done in a healthy, happy at­mos­phere, one that pro­vides for the phys­i­cal, men­tal and so­cial health of se­niors.

Collins and oth­ers said our se­niors have laid the foun­da­tion for the next gen­er­a­tion, and in many in­stances, they con­tinue to lead the way as vol­un­teers and com­mu­nity lead­ers.

The event also at­tracted se­niors’ ad­vo­cates at the pro­vin­cial level, in­clud­ing the New­found­land and Labrador 50-plus Club Fed­er­a­tion.

With some 124 clubs in the prov­ince and a mem­ber­ship that has swelled to 6,000, the fed- er­a­tion is a strong voice for se­niors, and lead­ers at ev­ery level are lis­ten­ing to their con­cerns.

Sam San­ders, a di­rec­tor with the fed­er­a­tion, said many towns are mak­ing ef­forts to be­come more wel­com­ing to se­niors, and he called the Pla­cen­tia event “ev­i­dence that you are agefriendly.”

Or­ga­niz­ers say the fair and ex­hi­bi­tion will be an an­nual event, but there are plans to go well be­yond this first step.

Barry said there’s a push on to con­vince busi­nesses to pay closer at­ten­tion to the needs of their older cus­tomers, and make what­ever ef­forts pos­si­ble to cater to their needs, in­clud­ing de­liv­er­ies. She said up­take on this ef­fort has been pos­i­tive, though some work re­mains.

She also en­vi­sions a day when ser­vices such as snow­clear­ing, grass-cut­ting and mi­nor house re­pair can be more read­ily ac­ces­si­ble to se­niors, at no cost.

“There’s so much more we can do,” she said. “This is only the be­gin­ning.”

Pho­tos by Terry Roberts/The Com­pass

Pic­tured here on Day 1 of the Pla­cen­tia Bay Age-Friendly Se­niors’ Fair and Ex­hi­bi­tion are, from left, Win­nie Barry (cham­ber of com­merce em­ployee), Mary King (Pla­cen­tia), Veron­ica King (Pla­cen­tia), Chris Fur­lotte (Dunville), Nel­lie Moore (Jer­sey­side) and Leo Quilty (Dunville).

Des Line­han (left), chair of the ad­vi­sory com­mit­tee that over­saw plan­ning of the Pla­cen­tia Bay Age-Friendly Se­niors’ Fair and Ex­hi­bi­tion, is shown with Mar­ion Tem­ple­man.

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