Audience

Reflections on the Seniors' Summit

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From the Community Foundation Grey Bruce

Reflections on the Seniors’ Summit 2019

Stuart Reid

An article featured in Grey Bruce MOSAIC.

In September, I was invited by the Council on Aging Grey Bruce
to give summary comments at the conclusion of the Seniors’
Summit 2019, a project that received funding from Community
Foundation Grey Bruce. The Summit was a fantastic day of topics
and experiences related to healthy aging in Grey Bruce. Dr. Brian
Goldman, of CBC radio’s White Coat, Black Art, kicked off the second
day with a keynote on empathy and caregiving. The day also featured
panel discussions on topics including housing and affordable living
spaces for Seniors; transportation – which ties into Senior isolation
and mental wellness; health services and access to services by Seniors;
important community services available to Seniors such as 211; and
finally, discussion on how the area is doing in terms of being an agefriendly
community.


In their registration package, attendees received a copy of
Community Foundation Grey Bruce’s Vital Signs Report from 2016
which summarizes local data, measuring Grey Bruce on several
indicators of community vitality. Vital Signs is a means of bringing
together local knowledge for local impact – a model used by our
“movement” of 191 Community Foundations from coast to coast to
coast.


The strategy of using local knowledge for local impact is also
much like what we experienced at the Seniors’ Summit. Vital Signs
contains a number of statistics that relate to aging. If Grey Bruce were
a village of 100 people, 21 of those would be over the age of 65. 73% of
Grey Bruce residents have a strong sense of belonging and we know
that seniors are the highest ranking of the age cohorts in belonging
and in self-rated mental health according to a recent Canadian Index
of Wellbeing report on Grey Bruce. In general people in our region are
content – statistics say 91% of Grey Bruce residents have a high sense
of life satisfaction.


There is much work ahead in coming together as a community to
support Seniors. Everyone will pass through the cycle of giving care
and/or receiving care as we travel down the path of aging together. In
terms of my summary comments and Calls to Action, I put together
a list of themes that emerged at the Summit. Rather than a to-do list,
these take-aways are more about the spirit in which we need to move
forward.


1. ADVOCACY & COMMUNICATION: Seniors need to be strong
advocates for their own personal health and often they need to speak
out on behalf of members of their families. When talking to doctors,
one needs to assert the need for clear and accessible information and
call for more collaborative models of service delivery. At the Summit,
we heard how the built environment influences health, so there is a
need to speak up about community planning to demand good design.
Civic engagement is good for one’s health; social and mental wellbeing
increases as Seniors get out and become part of the community.


2. INTERGENERATIONAL CONVERSATIONS: As elders in our
community, Seniors need to step up and offer to share and transfer
knowledge to the next generation. Caregiving, we learned, is an
important intergenerational exchange and there are great differences
between the generations. We heard about how “Centennial” doctors
are more casual, demand more personal time, and may have a very
different style/delivery than “Gen X” or “Boomer” doctors. Times are
constantly changing: everyone must be sensitive to generational shifts
and be open to differences to keep the conversations flowing.


3. ACTIVE LISTENING & EMPATHY: In his keynote, Dr. Goldman
gave moving examples of how to interact with those living with
dementia, how to hold space and not command others to conform to
our singular perception of reality. Active listening requires one to be
compassionate and patient, without the need to interject or reflect our
own ideas; instead, just be with others in the spirit of kindness. At
the Summit, we heard about the importance of personal narratives
and community storytelling – how a patient’s story should be front
and centre in their health care plan. Dr. Goldman also reinforced
the concept that empathy is the key to being mindfully present in
holding space for others. Human contact is the basis for caregiving
and kindness is essential.


4. ADAPTABILITY: Change is our only constant. We must be
adaptable and creative in meeting challenges: through creation of new
partnerships between health agencies, government, philanthropy,
families and individuals, challenges are addressed through collective
impact. Dr. Goldman reminded us that care was previously delivered
by highly paid professionals who were extensively educated in institutional
settings. Care is now delivered in our homes, by people who
don’t have the same training and aren’t compensated adequately.
We need to work together to adapt and to recognize the value of
caregiving.


5. LIVING HEALTHFULLY: Seniors today are committed to living
healthily into old age. With a longer life expectancy, they must assume
a proactive commitment to self care and their full potential. Effective
caregivers must invest in our own health first, to be better able to care
for others.


6. GRATITUDE: Most important of all, always speak from a
perspective of abundance rather than giving in to the language of
scarcity. Facing all relationships with an open and grateful heart will
have positive impacts and will, in turn, inspire others to gratitude.
There is so much to be thankful for in Grey Bruce: beautiful natural
surroundings, a lively arts and culture scene, a great network of
institutions and festivals, the benefits of being in the centre of food/
agricultural production, an active lifestyle with access to sports and
exercise – all in all, a very rich life for people of all ages. Coming
away from the Seniors’ Summit, one had a great sense of the power
of community and the strength in collaboration and partnerships. The
Summit inspired gratitude for the committed people and agencies in
Grey Bruce that are actively working on projects that foster caring for
people at all stages of life.


Community vitality depends on working together and looking
after each other. As an endowment builder and grant-maker,
Community Foundation Grey Bruce is here to help. In the coming
season of giving, remember your community and consider a donation
to support a great cause at www.communityfoundationgreybruce.com.

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