Seniors advocates applaud new funds
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An advocate for seniors in Westman says he’s excited to see new funding from the Manitoba government meant to promote and encourage active, healthy aging.
Existing programs in the province that offer services for seniors will receive almost $4.5 million for current and new community projects, including making more spaces age-friendly.
Seniors for Seniors Brandon will benefit both directly and indirectly from the funding, said executive director Rob Lavin.
“I’m excited about anything that’s invested to support seniors and allowing them to remain in the community longer. Obviously, that’s our mandate here. So, I’m really excited about that,” he said.
Lavin is on the committee for Age Friendly Brandon and was on the advisory committee that contributed to the province’s seniors strategy, which was unveiled by Seniors Minister Scott Johnston in February.
The seniors strategy is a living document, the minister said, which saw funding increases for palliative care and community programs, with another announcement expected on long-term care.
During Thursday’s announcement, Johnston said it’s the government’s intention to continue with the action items from the seniors strategy.
“We are committed to ensuring older adults can age in their homes and communities as long as they choose, with convenient access to services that meet their needs and comprehensive supports that enhance their quality of life,” the minister said.
But there was something else that caught Lavin’s eye in Thursday’s multimillion-dollar funding announcement.
It was $600,000 in new funding across the province to pay for emergency response information kits.
The kits have health information, medical history, next of kin, organ donor forms and other important information in case of a medical emergency.
A magnet attaches the kit to the fridge, and a sticker goes on the front door so emergency medical responders know to look for it.
“It caught my eye because our volunteers put those kits together here at Brandon Seniors for Seniors, and they’ve done in excess of 2,500 a year,” Lavin said. “What’s more, we would go out into the community asking for grant funding to support making those kits. So, this saves us from having to beg and plead for funding on an ongoing basis.”
Seniors want to stay out of personal care homes for as long as they can, said Connie Newman, executive director of the Manitoba Association of Senior Communities, which represents the province’s senior organizations.
Newman was instrumental in advising the minister on the seniors strategy, and was pleased with the $325,000 her organization will receive to expand the age-friendly initiative, which invests in projects that make infrastructure, housing and transportation more accessible to seniors.
“There is good stuff happening through the whole Westman region,” Newman said. “And through the age-friendly initiative we are going to bring a bunch of players together like the municipality, police, healthcare, service clubs — in various communities, and we are going to ask — how do we keep older adults safe in their community for the next number of years?”
The age-friendly initiative will include the concept of dementia-friendly communities where people living with dementia are understood, respected and supported.
The number of people with dementia in Manitoba will double by 2050, according to Erin Crawford, program director and incoming CEO of the Alzheimer Society of Manitoba.
Crawford said she was happy to see the reference to dementia, and added it was an important acknowledgement.
“Funding is really important,” Crawford said. “Because at the end of the day, you have to have the capacity to do the things to connect with the people and if you don’t have the funding for that capacity, it’s hard to make real change. So, seeing funding directed towards seniors’ priorities is really important.”