Join the fun at social rec. drop-in
Programs for older adults offer casual social time in Wilberforce, Minden and Haliburton
By Jenn Watt
Laughter and the clack of plastic dominoes on tabletops filled the Wilberforce Legion on Thursday, April 25, as participants in the drop-in program chatted and competed in their favourite game: Mexican Train dominoes.
The game has become a passion for some who attend the twice-monthly event run by Community Support Services, a department of Haliburton Highlands Health Services.
“I’m retired,” said participant Sandra Nicholson. “I met three really good friends from here and we hang out all the time now … And I learned to play Mexican Trains and now we’re all addicted to it. … Last week we had three tables going. It’s all social.”
The drop-in groups, which run in Minden, Haliburton and Wilberforce, were created by HHHS following community consultations.
“In 2017 we came up to Highlands East and we did a community consult to find out what they wanted,” said Nancy Brownsberger, community outreach co-ordinator. “We felt like the result of the rural health hub surveys we had done showed us that we really needed to provide greater outreach. And from there, we did a consultation in Minden and Haliburton to find out what they would like to see if they wanted a drop-in program.”
About a year ago, the Wilberforce group started up, followed in November in Minden and December in Haliburton. Currently, the Wilberforce group has the greatest number of participants with more than 20 each time its held.
The drop-in groups are for those 55 and older who are looking to have social recreation time. During the sessions, participants can join in with activities such as games, crafts, education segments and physical activity. The format is a choose-your-own-adventure style.
Photo: Sandra Nicholson, left, and Melanie Lewis read the clue in the Still Standing cache near the Wilberforce Legion on April 25. /JENN WATT Staff
On Thursday, though most of the tables were occupied with Mexican Train players, in the second room there was a craft going on, with people assembling flower decorations to put outside their homes.
The previous session had included potted pansies in time for Easter. At Christmastime some people chose to knit items to donate.
Kestrel Woodley, an occupational therapist, was on-hand to lead a gentle exercise session using chairs arranged in a circle. Brownsberger said there is education on falls prevention and balanced fitness.
Since the sun was out and the sky was blue, the group decided to go for a walk down the road to check out one of the geocache sites – the one created by Jonny Harris of Still Standing, the CBC program that visited Wilberforce recently.
The women chatted as they strolled along the road, posing for a photo on the bridge before discovering the cache, solving the puzzle and signing their name to the book inside.
Jane Welborn divides her time between Highlands East and Fort Myers, Fla. She said she didn’t know the community very well before she started coming to the drop-in group.
“I keep coming back because I keep meeting new girls every time that have the same interests that I have,” she said.
She thinks she now spends more time at her place in Highlands East because of the friendships she’s formed and the new connection to the community she’s made.
Nicholson feels the same way. She said she delayed a trip to Toronto by one day in order to attend the drop-in.
Photo: Doreen Robinson cuts the stem of some of the synthetic flowers she's using in a craft at the social recreation drop-in program in Wilberforce. The program is run in Minden, Haliburton and Wilberforce and includes games, crafts, snacks, exercise, cooking and information. Participants can choose what they'd like to do when they attend, which can be just having a coffee with friends or staying for the whole session
Melanie Lewis is a relative newbie to the group and said it’s been fun to reconnect to many of the people she already knew, but hadn’t talked to much recently.
Dorothy Chambers is a volunteer with HHHS and helps run the drop-in, which she said is personally fulfilling. Her commitment includes helping with things to do for the participants, like the craft activities.
Along with the games, crafts, health education and exercise, the program also includes learning to cook new dishes.
“I like the idea that we’re learning a recipe,” said Welborn, who said in her working life she didn’t have time to cook much. “I’m learning interesting dishes to cook for myself.”
Photo: Occupational therapist Kestrel Woodley leads a group in some gentle exercise during one of April's drop-in social recreation sessions at the Wilberforce Legion.
Every three or four months, Brownsberger conducts an evaluation of the program with participants to find out what they want to learn or do and then creates programming around that. Recent health promotions have included information on dementia, diabetes and advanced care planning.
“This is our way of creating space in three of the communities in our county that allow an opportunity for several hours in a month for folks to come and get information,” Brownsberger said.
“Because Minden and Haliburton are growing we want to encourage new people to come out, and come with a friend. You don’t have to stay for the whole time. Come, have a coffee and go. Lots of people do that. And if you’re interested in what we’re teaching or what’s happening in that session, that’s great. If you’re not and you just want the social bit, you want to play a game, lots of people do that.”
Hilary Klapow, a regular participant, suggested that once the programs in Minden and Haliburton ramp up, the Wilberforce group could challenge them to a Mexican Trains tournament.
The drop-in sessions are free to attend and include a light snack.
From 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. - second and fourth Fridays of the month
Minden United Church (now known as Highland Hills United Church)
(May 10 and May 24 are the next sessions)
From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. - second and fourth Thursday of the month
Wilberforce Legion - 1007 Burleigh Rd.
(May 9 and May 23 are the next sessions)
From 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. - second and fourth Monday of the month
Haliburton United Church - 10 George St.
(May 13 and May 27 are the next sessions)
For more information, call 705-457-2941 or email firstname.lastname@example.org