Seniors’ program gaining interest

Duane Hicks

A new program called Seniors and Law Enforcement Together (SALT) is off and running in Rainy River District, with a growing membership and a starting focus.
Becky Holden, a health educator with the Northwestern Health Unit office here and chair of the local seniors’ coalition, said that as of their Sept. 28 meeting, 28 people have signed up to be a part of the team and members have developed a committee structure.
As well, the program is meant to mobilize seniors to become involved with local police and other service agencies that focus on seniors’ needs in their community.
At the Sept. 28 meeting, members identified two priority areas—assisted living and crime prevention—and struck sub-committees to look into these issues.
“Those are the two topics they decided they want to move ahead with,” Holden noted. “We didn’t want to try to do everything at once.”
Holden, Fort Frances OPP Cst. Anne McCoy, and Gerry Yerxa of District Mental Health Services for Older Adults Program will be supporting the members as they move toward these priorities, as well as other learning opportunities that come up.
For example, with October being “Elder Abuse Awareness Month,” Yerxa will be getting members to help spread the word about that.
The SALT initiative is meant to get seniors engaged in their community, and help to make their community a healthier and safer place to work and play, and all signs indicate it’s working.
“It’s really exciting actually,” enthused Holden, adding the group has grown quite a bit in a short time.
“We did the story in August in the newspaper [and] we got a really great response from that,” she said.
“We also had a booth set up with the safety coalition at the Emo fall fair,” she added.
“That kind of got the word out district-wide. We pulled in a lot of people from that.”
Holden said it will be up to the group from now on to kind of look at how else they want to recruit people.
“We’ll try to get a member connecting with the media,” she noted.
One local senior who has joined SALT is Gloria Bergner.
“I think it’s a good thing,” she remarked. “It is just in the beginning stages, so it has several directions that it can and will go, I am sure.
“But at this point, probably the more people that get involved the better because it can go lots of different ways and we can accomplish a lot more,” Bergner added.
In addition to setting assisted living and crime prevention as priorities, Bergner said the SALT group also wants to plan physical activities for seniors to get them exercising and keep them active.
Another member is Robert Schulz, who first read about SALT in the Times. He said he’s been looking to do more volunteer work since he retired, and decided to attend the Sept. 28 meeting.
He found the topics interesting, noting that assisted housing is something people have been wanting here for years, while crime prevention, especially educating seniors on what to do about fraud and how not to be a target for prescription drug theft, is something Schulz has a keen interest in.
“They’re looking for somebody to take some training to go around to [seniors’ apartments] and give a little talk about how to protect yourself,” he noted.
“I volunteered for that.
“Without volunteers, these things don’t get off the ground,” Schulz stressed. “You can talk about them at the coffee table but if nobody volunteers to do something, they don’t get going.”
Holden said more people are welcome to become involved with SALT, adding there’s no age restriction for members.
The SALT group meets on the last Tuesday of each month at 11 a.m. at the Super 8 Motel, and anyone interested in finding out more should attend.
A light lunch will be provided at the monthly meetings, although those who plan to attend must notify Holden (274-9827) or Cst. McCoy (275-0010) so they know how many lunches to prepare.
The next meeting of SALT is slated for Tuesday, Oct. 26.
In related news, Holden said there will be no Seniors’ Lifestyle Expo this fall.
“We just thought it would be a good idea to take a break from it this year,” she noted. “With the new SALT group starting up, that was kind of our focus this year.
“We really wanted to get seniors engaged in the community and leading some activities, and making sure that we’re working on things they want us to work on,” Holden added.
“It increases our capacity a lot.
“If we have some seniors that really want to do some more community education, then we can provide them with the skills that they need and have them around in the community, rather than at a one-day event,” she reasoned.