By Al Beeber - Lethbridge Herald on November 25, 2022.
A health fair staged by the Nord-Bridge Seniors Centre and students in Mary Nugent’s community health nursing course at the University Lethbridge on Thursday was aimed at connecting seniors to available resources.
About 20 different services and organizations set up in the Nord-Bridge multi-purpose hall to assist visitors with their needs.
Nugent said all vendors were there by invitation and represented a wide range of services from private nursing care to hearing specialists.
A common theme running through the fair was ensuring seniors could live at home as long as possible.
“The latest stats I believe is that 93 per cent of seniors live in their home. And we want to try to keep people aging in place as long as possible. This is why Nord-Bridge is important and it’s also why our presence is important here, too,” said Nugent.
Nord-Bridge is a facility where seniors can not only socialize but connect to services they need in their lives, she added.
“Anything you can do to stimulate the mind is a good thing,” added Nugent who practises tai chi. Tai chi, she said, has been proven to stimulate mental health, balance and memory.
One popular attraction with visitors was a booklet created by nursing students to help seniors navigate the world of cellphones.
The booklet, said student Dana Lam, includes information on texting, increasing font size, adding and blocking contacts, downloading apps and putting the ringer on silent mode.
“They find it super helpful,” she said.
This was the first fair at Nord-Bridge since the COVID-19 pandemic started.
“Basically, we asked the seniors at the centre what they wanted to see from us,” said nursing program student Ava Donnelly.
The fair is “bridging gaps between the health care system and the community,” she added.
A community survey showed that among the biggest needs were mental health supports as well as supports for Alzheimers and dementia, pain management and arthritis, she said.
“There’s already such a problem with social isolation among seniors and COVID really did quite a total on making that worse, Donnelly added.
Terry and Josh Toth of the Medicine Shoppe near Nord-Bridge said some seniors are still dealing with the isolation of COVID.
“Some of them are pretty isolated and live alone so coming to these helps to kind of socialize,” said Josh, adding the fair offers services seniors may not know about.
Brooke Belsher of Nurse Next Door home care services said her company does private care in southern Alberta, helping people with personal care services such as dressing, showering, getting out of bed and meal preparation, eating and housekeeping.
“We really focus on companionship – it’s one of our main focuses is to look at the person as a whole and form relationships there and help them to do things they enjoy,” said Belsher.
“Home is the best place to be,” she added.
David Gabert of the Canadian Mental Health Association said that organization knows how hard it can be for people to connect.
“It’s much easier to connect where they already go in the community, a senior centre, the library, where ever that might be to connect to the services they may not think they need or they may not know exist if they go into crisis,” he said of the fair.
He said the CMHA tries to normalize conversations about mental health.
“A lot of the time we put on a brave face and that stigma, even if we don’t know it’s actively there, is there a lot of the time for us,” Gabert added.
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