SMART program gets cooking with $178,000 grant to local VON group

It seems only appropriate that an announcement was made in a kitchen to get VON’s new SMART program cooking in Mount Forest.

SMART is Seniors Main­taining Active Roles Together.

One of the important ingredients was $178,000 in funding from the Ontario Trillium Foun­dation. It is providing the money over the next three years to allow more seniors to participate.

That will allow the VON to hire a wellness coordinator, train volunteers, and obtain space to deliver the  program.

Caroline Countryman, VON’s manager of community support services, acknowled­ged the dignitaries and staff and volunteers at the event.

“With the generous funding from the Ontario Trillium Foundation, the Wellington, Waterloo, and Dufferin Branch of the VON Canada will provide the communities of Cen­tral and North Wellington County with the benefits of this wonderful program,” said Countryman.

“The SMART program, with its components of exercise, nutrition and wellness, is a cost effective, volunteer based program that will im­prove the health of seniors by enhancing fall prevention, re­ducing physical inactivity and isolation and by encouraging seniors to be active in their daily lives,” she said.

Perth-Wellington?MPP?John Wilkinson said “The best thing about the Ontario Trillium Foundation is  that it is money that goes into our communities.” He added the decisions about how the funding is distributed are made by volunteers in the community. “We’ve been doing this for over 25 years, and the very best projects are funded.”

He said the VON?has done amazing service for the past 100 years. “They are part of our community.”

The programs are led by volunteers with specialized training and ongoing education to deliver safe, appropriate physical activities designed for successful aging.

But there are special needs in rural Ontario, Wilkinson said, citing ease of access to such programs in large cities.

“In rural Ontario we have more distance, so a bit more help is needed to make sure a great program can be in rural Ontario.”

He said there was a need identified in North and Centre Wellington, “so the community came together to put in an application.”

“It’s that community support of both the VON?and this program which allows me to make this announcement.”

He cited Ontario Trillium Foundation representative Cath­arine Collins, as a volunteer who put in tireless hours to see the projects and get together with those in her team to determine which programs get funding.

Collins said, “I’m delighted that over the next three years, the VON?is going to be able to continue providing health care and social services.”She said the SMART?program will have a profound effect on isolated seniors, helping them with their physical and social well being.

She said during the past two years in the Wellington-Water­loo-Dufferin area, the Trillium Foundation has spent $10.5 million to help invigorate the communities.

Wellington North Mayor Mike Broomhead said the Trillium grants “have enhanced our community over the years. This is one grant that will be put to good use … it will go a long way to help the seniors in our communities.”

He added, “The VON?has played a big role in our community for a lot of years and we’re extremely proud of  it.”

Sheila Schuehlein, VON?Canada’s national wellness project manager, thanked the foundation.

Schuehlein said the program’s main goal is to help seniors who are struggling with mobility issues. Those affect the ability to live independently. For some, it could be whether or not the person can reach into a cupboard for a can of soup, or being able to walk two blocks to get to the store.

“For some folks, it is a difficult, or even an impossible task.”

Schuehlein said there is a connection between physical activity and healthy aging,” and activity improves functional capacity, mental health, fitness levels, and prevention and management of nearly every chronic condition.

She added the SMART?program provides a non-threatening model to encourage participation in safe, effective activity for older adults.

Schuehlein said the program, which began in 2002, is now offered in 22 communities across Canada.

For many, she said it allows people to “regain or maintain their independence.”

Countryman added the VON?has hired a SMART co­ordinator, Kelly Gee, who be­gins her role June 7.

She anticipated the first classes will begin in Mount Forest, then expanding to Arthur, Palmerston then the rest of the county over the next three years.

Gee, as program coordinator, will also visit clients homes as well as local centres.

The programs ensure that seniors are more active and provide exercises to relieve arthritic pain.

Gee added the program will promote activity in daily living, which in turn increase strength and endurance which affects so much more.