ERIN LINN MCMULLAN
Special to the Westerly
Social connectedness is essential for happiness, emphasizes Tofino’s Recreation Programmer Kaela Tompkins, who hopes a new ‘Seniors Lunchbox Program’ kicking off on April 26 will empower local seniors and provide something to look forward to.
Running weekly on Fridays from 10 a.m.-12 p.m. at the Tofino Community Centre, it will offer a wide range of senior-centric programming. A transportation component is being worked on to include Opitsaht and Ty-Histansis.
Tofino Recreation has received a $20,677 grant under the federal New Horizons for Seniors program. It will fund seniors-driven programming and a monthly lunch over the next year, with the possibility of renewal in future.
While a coordinator will be hired to facilitate its launch, seniors will helm a steering committee to determine program needs and deliver programming, where possible.
Tompkins says the idea was sparked by a 2017 Try-It Fair, which invited locals 55 and older to come discover potential activity options, from dance-fit to pickleball, and fill out a survey with their wish list for future programs. Inspired by growing up attending seniors’ functions with her grandparents in the Kootenays, Tompkins is enthusiastic about the friendships she’s already formed with seniors attending existing classes.
“Seniors are a vibrant and important part of our community,” says Tompkins, who added Tofino has over 450 seniors aged 55 to 99, and Sister Margaret Baumann is due to celebrate her 100th birthday this summer.
Tompkins highlights the importance of key partnerships from Pacific Rim Hospice to the District of Tofino, who are donating the community room and gymnasium for the program’s use.
“The number of seniors in our communities is on the rise,” says Mayor Josie Osborne.
“And, it’s important they have access to a diverse range of activities and programs just as residents of other ages do. With both Tofino and Ucluelet now having ‘age friendly’ community plans, we’ve got a far better understanding of what the region’s seniors need and want, and I’m grateful that we’ve got partnerships between local organizations and different levels of government to bring these programs to life.”
While Tofino’s mild climate and oceanfront setting appear ideal for active retirement, it can be challenging to access key services available in larger centres.
There is no local Meals on Wheels program, assisted living facility or transportation assistance for doctor’s appointments or physio. Many health services from specialists to cancer treatment require out-of-town travel bridged, in part, by the volunteer-run Wheels for Wellness program.
To provide volunteer help, from gardening to recycling and dog walking, Tompkins plans to work with Wickaninnish Community School to match students with seniors.
Pacific Rim Hospice Society’s Executive Director Tarni Jacobsen points out that people want to stay in the community they’ve lived in all their lives.
She hopes these programs and others might enable seniors to age in place.
If you would like to receive weekly program information via email, contact Kaela Tompkins: 250-725-3229 ext. 704 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
READ MORE: Seniors boom in Tofino and Ucluelet