By Cam Doherty and Jim Elliot
The Coast Kamloops Hotel and Conference Centre was bustling with activity on June 12 as the second annual Seniors’ Symposium took over the bottom floor of the hotel for the day.
Presented by Oncore Seniors Services and the City of Kamloops, the day’s schedule offered attendees the opportunity to not only browse the booths that local senior-oriented businesses and services had set up, but also to attend many informative presentations.
Master of Ceremonies Ann McCarthy, spoke to the importance of the symposium when she said, “Seniors in the area have asked for better information and access to resources, this symposium is the answer to that…we are celebrating growing old, not apologizing for it.”
The first speaker at the event was B.C. Health Minister Terry Lake, who spoke about the importance of seniors to the B.C. government, noting that one-sixth of the B.C. population is over 65 years of age.
Lake went on to pledge greater support for the United Way’s Better at Home program. According to their website, Better at Home “helps seniors with simple day-to-day tasks so that they can continue to live independently in their own homes and remain connected to their communities.”
Having retained $22 million of provincial government funding in the past, Lake announced another $4 million investment in the program. Better at Home is already operating in Kamloops and is set to start pilot projects in outlying areas including Clearwater and Sun Peaks.
Michael Mcknight, the President and CEO of United Way Lower Mainland, said that Better at Home’s most important function is to “fulfill people’s need for connection,” and that “the toll of loneliness is worse for seniors.”
Mayor Peter Milobar also addressed the crowd in support of the Better at Home program. Milobar spoke of how important remaining in their own homes is to his elderly relatives and the ways in which programs like Better at Home can delay the move to an assisted living facility.
Deputy Ombudsperson David Paradiso delivered the symposium’s keynote speech entitled Fairness and Seniors. The Ombudsperson is an independent statutory position that decides “whether provincial public authorities have acted fairly and reasonably and whether their actions and decisions were consistent with relevant legislation, policies and procedures.”
“The way seniors are treated in B.C. is not just an issue for seniors but for everyone,” said Paradiso at the beginning of his address.
Following the keynote speech, there were three short presentations from Telus, the TRU Healthcare Assistant program and the City of Kamloops. A representative from Telus presented information about their WISE program, a set of free seminars with the goal of creating “engaging dialogues around smartphone safety.”
Kim Morris and Lynette Nordic of the TRU Healthcare Assistant program explained the role their program’s graduates play in the lives of seniors. The presenters spoke about the skills their graduates learn and the philosophy of the program which they summarized as “clients direct their own care and make their own choices…We support that client’s independence.”
Finally Athena Smith, a City of Kamloops employee, presented community safety tips for seniors including the dangers of online and telephone scams, which con-artists regularly target seniors with because according to Smith, “they are too polite for their own good.”
After the morning presentations, the assembled seniors were free to circulate amongst several smaller seminars and informational booths, hosted by a variety of businesses and services.
Tara Hildebrand, support and education co-ordinator for the north and central regions of the Alzheimer Society of B.C., presented one of the well-received seminars entitled What You Need to Know About Alzheimer’s. The presentation focused on the differences between dementia and Alzheimer’s, as well as providing information for people who are caring for loved ones with the disease.
A key point that Hildebrand stressed to those caregivers dealing with someone suffering from Alzheimer’s is to “focus on what they are still doing rather than what they’ve lost.”
Other presentation subjects included housing for seniors, innovations in healthcare management and age-friendly city planning.
The Second Annual Seniors’ symposium served as a fun and informative gathering place for all people interested in issues affecting seniors in Kamloops and the surrounding areas.