MINTO – Town council has agreed to provide $10,000 to support the continuation of programming to combat isolation among senior citizens through the local Seniors Centre for Excellence.
With in-person programs halted due to the COVID-19 pandemic since mid-March of 2020, the centre moved into virtual programming, including telephone and Zoom video forums to keep seniors connected and engaged, explained seniors health services coordinator Helen Edwards at the Aug. 24 council meeting.
Edwards told council the centre was able to secure funding to create the position of Active Connected and Engaged (ACE) coordinator. The coordinator, Drayton resident Glynis Belec, created virtual programing, as well as a Facebook page and newsletter to connect with local seniors.
“Glynis pulled us kicking and screaming into the 20th century,” said Edwards.
Edwards noted the centre’s funds for the programming are dwindling, but the desire of local seniors to attend of virtual meeting is not.
Harriston resident Linda Campbell who is involved in several Minto organizations including the Harriston and District Horticultural Society said that she has not “been kept home by COVID-19.”
However, she noted “many of the those who join in on the Seniors Centre for Excellence Zoom sessions have been.
“The sessions must make them feel less lonely,” she observed.
“A lot of us attended the exercise classes at the Presbyterian church in Harriston and the dining programs that a were held, so we didn’t just go to Harriston, we went to Palmerston and Drayton and Arthur and we just loved them. When COVID stopped everything, it was ‘Oh, Oh. Now what?’” said Minto resident Willa Wick.
Noting that seniors and technology often “don’t mesh” Wick said with help from Edwards and Belec, local seniors were able to participate in programs through zoom “and it was easy.
“We were helping other people, I did presentations on Zoom and eventually I was conducting meetings, assisting with the horticultural society, doing the Women’s Institute and helping with the historical society. So it’s been a real learning curve. It’s been excellent,” Wick added.
Clifford resident Brenda Flynn said she had been experiencing “a lot of isolation and aloneness,” prior to getting involved with the centre’s virtual programming.
“I found the environment respectful, positive and inclusive and each person was important,” she said.
Edwards explained the centre was seeking $10,000 contributions from both Minto and Wellington North to help maintain the ACE coordinator position and virtual programming.
She noted Mapleton supplies administrative support and employee benefits for the centre’s operation.
Mayor George Bridge said he believes the centre is doing important work.
“The amount of effort and the good things you’ve done with this program and keeping it going – we can’t thank you enough,” he stated.
“A huge part of our town is seniors,” many of whom are community volunteers, said deputy mayor Dave Turton.
“And volunteers are our strength,” Turton added.
Minto CAO Derek Thomson pointed out the group’s funding request could be covered from an allocation to assist community groups from a fund of money provided by the provincial and federal governments for local COVID-19 relief efforts.
“I can’t really think of a better place if council so wished to fund this request,” said Thomson.
Council approved the funding request unopposed.