New Charlotte County seniors centre aims to aid and empower

From left to right, Dr. Suzanne Dupuis-Blanchard, Kathy Bockus, Carol MacLean, Emma Keech (Senior Resource Centre Coordinator) and Carole Davidson (Senior Resource Centre Coordinator Assistant). (Vicki Hogarth)

By Vicki Hogarth

SAINT ANDREWS — Dozens of residents and guests gathered for the grand opening of the Charlotte County Seniors Resource Centre inside the Wellness Centre at the WC O’Neill Arena Complex. The May 13 event marked a significant milestone for the community and its senior population.

The Charlotte County Seniors Resource Centre, which opened softly in late 2023, aims to assist seniors aged 60 and over in Charlotte County, including Deer Island, Grand Manan and Campobello. Emma Keech, the Senior Resource Coordinator of the centre, expressed her gratitude to the community for its support and participation.

“Since we started on November first, we have witnessed remarkable growth in both the range of services we provide and the individuals we serve,” she said.

The centre, born out of a pilot project, is the result of a collaborative effort involving various organizations and community members. Through partnerships with the Department of Social Development, Nursing Home Without Walls, and the Passamaquoddy Lodge, and the Town of Saint Andrews, the Charlotte County Seniors Resource Centre has become a vital hub for seniors seeking assistance in accessing essential services to age in place.

Charlotte County faces challenges in infrastructure for aging in place, particularly in services like transportation and access to health, social, and financial support for seniors. The Charlotte County Seniors Resource Centre is already evolving to meet the diverse needs of the community. By assisting seniors with applications for social development programs, low-income seniors benefits, CPP, GIS, and drug plans, the centre strives to empower individuals with access to essential resources.

The centre offers a wide range of services to support seniors, including assistance with nursing home applications, facilitation of dental programs, and connection to equipment loan programs. They also help seniors navigate available home repair programs and provide education on legal protections in collaboration with the J Donovan Group. Prioritizing mental wellness, Keech and her team conduct wellness checks and social visits, meeting seniors in their homes when they are unable to come to the centre due to mobility issues or living remote. The centre has also offered a Basic First Aid and Safety Workshop in partnership with Atlantic Emergency Medical Training Solutions.

“This centre was born through a healthy seniors pilot project in 2022, where we engaged the community of St. Andrews to see what would enable them to age in place,” said Keech. “From that vital project, a resource centre was one of the asks.”

The grand opening ceremony was attended by the Honourable Kathy Bockus, Minister Responsible for Seniors and MLA for St. Croix, Dr. Suzanne Dupuis-Blanchard, the visionary founder of Nursing Home Without Walls, Mayor Brad Henderson of St. Andrews, and other proactive and engaged community members.

Bockus highlighted the importance of such centres in communities facing an aging population.

“New Brunswick has one of the fastest-growing populations of seniors in the country,” she said. “A collaborative effort is needed to ensure our seniors have access to the services and supports necessary for them to age in place.”

Dr. Dupuis-Blanchard emphasized the significance of community-based services for older adults. “Older adults need accessible and person-centered services in the community to age in place,” she explained. “And this is what the centre is offering, and this is what is needed in many communities.”

Mayor Henderson of Saint Andrews praised the centre as an essential resource for the community. “It’s one thing to have the Age-Friendly Community designation, but it’s another thing to live it,” he said.

The grand opening ceremony also included remarks from Justin Sappier, Cultural Coordinator of the Passamaquoddy Recognition Group, and Carol MacLean, the centre’s first registered guest, who had the honour of cutting the ribbon alongside Keech and Carole Davidson, the Senior Resource Centre Coordinator Assistant.

The celebration concluded with a reception, allowing attendees to enjoy refreshments and learn more about the services offered by the Charlotte County Seniors Resource Centre. With the centre now officially open, seniors in the community have access to a wide range of support services to help them age comfortably and independently.

The Saint Croix Courier