Placentia seniors’ fair a step in right direction

Terry Roberts
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Area far from age-friendly, say organizers

Like most regions of this province, seniors make up a large proportion of the population in the Placentia region

Pictured here on Day 1 of the Placentia Bay Age-Friendly Seniors’ Fair and Exhibition are, from left, Winnie Barry (chamber of commerce employee), Mary King (Placentia), Veronica King (Placentia), Chris Furlotte (Dunville), Nellie Moore (Jerseyside) and Leo Quilty (Dunville).

Like most regions of this province, seniors make up a large proportion of the population in the Placentia region. But the area is far from age-friendly, say organizers of a fair and exhibition dedicated to helping change that situation.

“We do very little for our seniors,” admitted Winnie Barry, the driving force behind the inaugural Placentia Bay Age-Friendly Seniors’ Fair and Exhibition.

“We are by no means age-friendly.”

That blunt assessment came as the fair and exhibition, being staged at the Star of Sea Hall in Placentia Oct. 22-23, was getting underway.

The  event is a first tangible step towards showing seniors the support they so richly deserve, said Barry. It was a message echoed by many others at the event.

Plenty of support

With financial support from the provincial and federal governments, and the local business community and seniors’ groups, serious planning for the event got underway about two months ago.

But the seed was first planted in Barry’s mind in January, when she learned that a similar fair and exhibition had taken place in Grand Falls-Windsor.

Something similar could be done in Placentia, she thought, and she knew just the organization to spearhead the concept.

Barry is office administrator with the Placentia Area Chamber of Commerce, an organization that represents some 200-plus businesses in the area.

She broached the idea with the chamber executive, and was thrilled by the positive response.

With financial support from agencies such as the provincial departments of Health and Community Services and Advanced Education and Skills, the federal Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, and unwavering co-operation from the town, various businesses and groups, the event came together nicely, said Barry.

A special advisory committee comprised of about a dozen people, chaired by retired educator Des Linehan, oversaw the planning.

After some initial concerns about whether area seniors would participate in such an event, organizers could only smile with delight as a lineup formed at the registration table on Day 1.

The doors opened at 10 a.m. on Oct. 22, and within minutes, the parking lot was full and some 100-plus people — mostly seniors — could be seen milling about the exhibition, and later taking part in the official launch.

Among them was 85-year-old Dunville resident Marion Templeman, one of many active and vibrant seniors in the area.

She came with a special interest in topics such as home support and diabetes management, and was very grateful that such an emphasis was being placed on transforming Placentia into an age-friendly community.

“This is very nice,” Templeman stated as she browsed through the booths.

Tremendous contribution

The event features two days of presentations on topics pertinent to seniors, including living with diabetes, the benefits of nutraceutical products, dealing with bereavement, elder abuse and discussions about ways to make communities age-friendly.

There are some two dozens booths set up at the exhibition, spotlighting various services, organizations and businesses that cater to seniors.

“Seniors have made tremendous contributions to our province,” Placentia-St. Mary’s MHA Felix Collins told those at kick-off ceremony.

He quipped that aging is a “fatal disease,” but stressed that it can be done in a healthy, happy atmosphere, one that provides for the physical, mental and social health of seniors.

Collins and others said our seniors have laid the foundation for the next generation, and in many instances, they continue to lead the way as volunteers and community leaders.

The event also attracted seniors’ advocates at the provincial level, including the Newfoundland and Labrador 50-plus Club Federation.

With some 124 clubs in the province and a membership that has swelled to 6,000, the federation is a strong voice for seniors, and leaders at every level are listening to their concerns.

Sam Sanders, a director with the federation, said many towns are making efforts to become more welcoming to seniors, and he called the Placentia event “evidence that you are age-friendly.”

Organizers say the fair and exhibition wil become an annual event, but there are plans to go well beyond this first step.

Barry said there’s a push on to convince businesses to pay closer attention to the needs of their older customers, and make whatever efforts possible to cater to their needs, including deliveries. She said uptake on this effort has been positive, though some work remains.

She also envisions a day when services such as snowclearing, grass-cutting and minor house repair can be more readily accessible to seniors, at no cost.

“There’s so much more we can do,” she said. “This is only the beginning.”

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