Aging Well Committee learns new potential strategies from George Brown faculty
By Vanessa Balintec
George Brown College gerontology faculty and Aging Well Haliburton County exchanged strategies during a June 21 meeting at the Haliburton Highlands Family Health Team Clinic to tackle problems seniors face in the community, and may work together in the future to bring aging-friendly ideas, partnerships, and co-op students to the county.
According to Molly Marrack, George Brown professor and gerontology activation co-ordinator, the information will help inform the curriculum for a course called Aging in Place, one of the first courses students take.
“This one really stood out,” said Marrack about the master plan. “You got into such detail – so many of them are lightly once-over, but there were a lot of doable action steps that were attached. So we started quoting this.”
“We’re talking about you,” said activation co-ordinator for gerontology Anna-Marie Stoneburgh. “You’re very much on my lectures. My students know Huntsville, they know Haliburton, they know Minden, they know Parry Sound. So I wanted you to know that too.”
Although the faculty praised their work, partners, and expertise on the subject, many issues still exist locally such as transportation, housing, and long-term care that continue to be big challenges for the committee. Aging Well staff said a big problem in particular are the lack of options for caregivers in the area.
Activation co-ordinator for gerontology Pamela Gauci, who has sponsored a nanny from abroad, said that sponsoring foreign care workers can help tackle the shortage of personal care workers and the housing crisis all in one.
“You’re acting as a sponsor for someone who is a trained PSW or nurse, and it’s an opportunity for them to come into Canada to offer help in home,” said Gauci. “It kind of deals with your housing issue because you’re having them live in your own home, get a deduction in terms of what you pay them because you charge them room and board, and then eventually a lot of them end up staying in that community.”
Doreen Boville, health promoter for the HKPR Health Unit and chair for the Aging Well Haliburton Committee, said it was a “great idea” and something to look into.
“I can see a few potential partners, whether it’s community support services, or even the local churches might be interested in it,” said Boville. “That is a potential solution to a few things: it’s the caregiving, the home-share, having that resource in the community. Then it becomes building the community, because if they stay in the community and continue to provide those services, even once their initial hours are completed, it is definitely a win-win.”
To tackle recreation and limitation in transportation, faculty showed the success of one of their grad’s projects: a mobile recreation initiative that had programs come to the people instead of the people to a centre.
“She came up with this idea where they had a small office with all of their supplies,” said Marrack about the WISE Mobile Active Living Centre operating throughout 19 locations across Muskoka. “And every day, they go, they pack early in the morning with program. She was at one site, it went on, eight to 10 members, she packs it all up, she drives to the next community. They brought it all together and on a regular basis they go to each of these places.”
The programs feature different themes that local businesses can help contribute to. Although the program existed before, it was the changes her student, Katelynn Laarakker, made that helped make it successful. According to Marrack, the new program is saving the District of Muskoka “all kinds of money” and is being academically recognized for its groundbreaking work.
Boville said this initiative would be a great end goal for the committee to achieve.
“The social participation piece we haven’t done a lot on yet, but we said maybe one of our future projects then is to start an inventory with all the things that are happening,” said Boville. “I think there are a couple objectives that were identified in the Master Plan that could actually meet those objectives.”
Potential co-op placements throughout the county was proposed as a future project to help the two work together – to give students experience in a senior community while bringing help to seniors.
“I know from George Brown College we’re really trying to put you on the map to promote the idea of coming up to live in the community, and this is where it’s at,” said Stoneburgh. “It would be lovely to have a student come up here.”
“It’ll be a great thing for us to always keep on the back burner and bring someone to you that we think is a great match,” said Marrack. “We’ll try our best.”
The committee is interested in coming up with ways for students to come up to the Highlands for placements, with a list of places that the students would be able to be placed for co-op.