Health and Well-being: Supporting older adults in Manitoba

Krystal Stokes Healthy Living

Have you heard the old expression ‘put your money where your mouth is’? 

I’ve always loved it and decided it would be a great starting point for this month’s column. According to a quick online search, the expression dates back to the early 1900s and is defined by the Cambridge dictionary as, “to show by your actions and not just your words that you support or believe in something.” Variations of the sentiment appear throughout human discourse, including another favourite, ‘actions speak louder than words.’ 

My grandfather was mayor of a small Manitoba town and people used to tell me how they admired him because he was a man of character who always practiced what he preached. Even though it’s been years since he passed away, I continue to be inspired by how he lived. And that’s why I love working for an organization that not only believes in giving back but does it in so in many ways. 

Victoria Lifeline’s mission has been unwavering since they first opened their doors in 1988 – to support safe and independent living for all Manitobans by providing help at the touch of button. However, living independently in your own home for as long as possible is also about adopting safe fall prevention practices and a healthy lifestyle. That’s why after thirty years and over 40,000 people helped, Victoria Lifeline education facilitators emphasize the importance of healthy living and exercise in fall prevention – and the research continues to support that strategy. According to the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority’s Staying on Your Feet – Taking Steps to Prevent Falls booklet, exercise and healthy eating are key factors in reducing your risk of falls as you age. In fact, the booklet states that, “exercise that improves balance can reduce falls by between 22-38 percent.” 

If you couple exercise with healthy eating habits, you can reduce your risk of falling even further, “new studies show that getting enough vitamin D and calcium can help you avoid a fall and may prevent serious injury if you do fall.” 

Recognizing the correlation between healthy living and aging safely in place, Victoria Lifeline made a commitment to financially support the health and well-being of older adults by creating an annual Health Promotion Grant Program. The grants are available to senior service providers in rural Manitoba to engage in health promotion for older adults living in their communities. Since the inception of the program over ten years ago, Victoria Lifeline has been honored to fund so many wonderful initiatives in communities like Steinbach, Gladstone, Lundar, Morden, Russell, Notre Dame des Lourdes and Neepawa just to name a few. These have included everything from walking poles for an intergenerational walking program to a Wii System and fitness games for a senior living facility. Grant money has also been used to purchase wheelchairs for a drop-in centre and to cover the cost of swimming passes and transportation so older adults who live outside of Winnipeg can visit one of the indoor city pools in winter. There have even been a few shuffle boards and bocce ball sets over the years! 

Sandra Duma, the Executive Director of Victoria Lifeline, said social impacts are an important part of their strategic plan every year as they look for ways to give back to the community. The online Business Dictionary defines social impact as, “The effect of an activity on the social fabric of the community and well-being of the individuals and families.” Sandra explains how the grant program fits into their strategic directives, “We know how important senior resource programs are to small communities and the vital role they play in engaging older adults. The grant program allows us to support that mandate while working together to improve the health and well-being of older adults in rural areas across the province.” 

supporting the health and well being of older adults in Manitoba
Ritchot Senior Services Centre were able to purchase new exercise equipment for their fall prevention exercise class.

This past May, eight different senior service organizations received health promotion grant money. This included Ritchot Senior Services Centre in Ritchot, Manitoba, who were able to purchase new exercise equipment for their fall prevention exercise class (see picture). Niverville Senior Services also received grant money to build two raised garden beds for one of the Senior homes in town. Niverville Senior Resource Coordinator Damien Gagné sent in some lovely pictures of the garden beds in full bloom. Damien also helped arrange a gardening and healthy eating class for the residents.

Victoria Lifeline has partnered with Senior Community Resource Councils since the early 1990s to provide their medical alarm service to over 370 Manitoba communities. Victoria Lifeline is also a service of the Victoria General Hospital Foundation, with all proceeds dedicated to advancing healthcare. 

If you’d like to learn more about fall prevention, please visit the WRHA’s Staying on Your Feet website at preventfalls.ca 

If you have a great example of how your ‘actions speak louder than words, I’d love to hear about it. Please email me at kstokes@victorialifeline.ca so I can also be inspired by the way you live! 

Krystal Stokes in the Communications & Public Relations Manager at Victoria Lifeline.

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