Government announces senior spending

Ken Kellar

There was some good news for seniors across the Rainy River District last week as the provincial government unveiled some sizeable funding announcements aimed at their health and leisure.

Kenora-Rainy River MPP Greg Rickford stopped in at the Fort Frances Senior Centre on Friday morning to share some of the announcements he had made earlier in the week in Kenora.

At that time, Rickford announced $14.1-million in funding for Seniors Active Living Centre programs across the province, including $52,727 for the local senior centre.

“Thematically, we were putting a particular focus on working with our seniors this week,” Rickford remarked.

“Now this is something I’m involved with year-in and year round, but as a result of the funding announcement at the end of the year, all of our senior centres not only received important annual funding from our government, but everybody got a 20 per cent increase in that amount this year.”

The money in that announcement, Rickford noted, will go towards upkeep costs and programming that is offered at the centre.

“I know that this investment will have a direct and positive impact on programming right here in Fort Frances,” he said.

“And I know that because I see the facility, I see you folks here today, but I also see as I travel around the other communities, how important their centres are to them.”

Rickford explained that the decision to increase the funding to Senior Centres in the district was due to the importance of the programs offered by such centres to those who use them.

“These are places where folks socialize, there are health benefits, there are programs and services here that we think matter,” he said.

“As the builders of our communities I think we owe it to them, and we made a conscious choice that despite serious fiscal pressures, we needed to continue to invest in seniors and increase those investments.”

Another announcement that Rickford reiterated to the crowd at the centre was the $90-million that would be going towards the Ontario Seniors Dental Care Program (OSDCP), which will be available through public health units. Rickford shared that the Northwestern Health Unit would be receiving $820,000 as a part of that funding.

Through the funding, a new mobile dental unit will be purchased, which Rickford said would allow the health unit to check on more vulnerable seniors who might not otherwise have access to dental care.

“‘Smiles by the Miles’ is the name of the RV and it’s got a dentist and a dental therapist,” he said.

“So we’re really focusing on some of the challenges that some low income seniors have who don’t live in some of our towns and cities face. We’ve also managed to get some local private dentists to buy into the program and they, on a limited basis, will see qualifying seniors. So that’s fantastic for them and we’re really excited about this.”

The dental program will be accessible by seniors across the province that are under a certain financial threshold.

“These are for very, very vulnerable seniors, and the parameters are targeted towards seniors who pretty typically would not even go out to seek dental services and they’d wind up in our emergency rooms,” Rickford said.

“One of the important things about dental care for seniors is that deteriorating dental health is often a precursor for another important health condition. For example, the condition of your mouth is directly related to the condition of your heart, that evidence is obvious,” he added.

“The NWHU has told us, and as a former nurse I can tell you, some folks have taken dental matters into their own hands, and that’s caused further complications. I understand things like fishing lines and bricks have been used for dental care. We can’t have that.”

Along with the two announcements, Rickford also revealed $15,000 in funding for the nascent Seniors Companion Project, which is preparing to host a number of volunteer information sessions starting at the end of the month.

“Today is about more than $68,000 in funding for various projects and activities and programs and services to be offered here at the Fort Frances Senior Centre,” Rickford said.

“We owe this to you folks as builders of our communities, people who worked year in and year out, paid your taxes, volunteered your time to our communities and various different places and now as you enjoy a little extra spare time, you have a great place to come for socializing, for various activities, services and programs.”