LOUISDALE: An event in Richmond County last week aimed to engage seniors with their communities.
The 2018 Richmond County Seniors Conference took place at Richmond Education Centre and Academy in Louisdale on Saturday. This year’s event was organized by the Mind-Body-Spirit Project, a year-long initiative run by the Dr. Kingston Memorial Health Centre and funded by the province and the Municipality of the County of Richmond.
“We invited all seniors in Richmond County and area over the age of 55. There was definitely a mental health focus,” said Dawn Ostrem, project coordinator for Mind-Body-Spirit. “The big thing to keep in mind is that as soon as you retire, you’re put into a situation where your mental health may suffer because there are a lot of changes that are related to not having a good social network.”
The conference drew approximately 100 participants who took part in a variety of mental health and wellness-oriented workshops including yoga, healthy eating, developing a social network, and adjusting to change. The keynote speaker was Yarmouth mayor Pam Mood. Mood has travelled internationally speaking on topics including leadership and wellness. Participants also had the opportunity to share their thoughts on what they learned during the day.
“It’s really about taking care of yourself from all angles,” said Ostrem, adding that there is a strong correlation between physical and mental well-being that is particularly important for seniors.
Ostrem says one of the key goals of the Mind-Body-Spirit Project is to empower communities to improve the lives of seniors, especially those facing social isolation.
“It’s basically a way to organize and inspire people in the community to do some community development… To build programs or build initiatives on their own without necessarily having government support, financial anyway, to help take care of seniors,” said Ostrem.
Over 20 volunteers helped organize Saturday’s conference. Ostrem said it was an example of what a community can do with a very small amount of funding.
“We also had a lot of local businesses donate prizes. We had a local volunteer theatre group that’s part of a social isolation program and they put on a couple of skits,” said Ostrem.
The planning committee was led by Celeste Gotell, who has helped develop the Seniors Take Action Coalition for Richmond County and the Strait area. The committee also included some seniors who are active in their communities.
Ostrem feels it is important in an area with a high seniors’ population to recognize the positive impact that older adults can have in their communities.
“Essentially, seniors are our best volunteers. If we can volunteer to put these programs together, but also reap the benefits of the programs as seniors too, that’s true community development, and that’s what we believe needs to be done, with collaboration and help from other organizations.”
Ostrem said she is pleased with the feedback she has received from participants so far.
“I think people really felt that they had the ear of people, that they could talk to each other, and that this conference was a way for that dialogue to happen,” she said.
Saturday’s event was the third seniors’ conference to take place in Richmond County, and Ostrem hopes there will be more in the future.
“Each year, somebody different has organized it,” said Ostrem. “Mind-Body-Spirit is a one-year project, but hopefully it will start a chain reaction and things will sort of take-off on their own.”