“Happiness and intimacy has nothing to do with age!” This was one of the many comments made by the participants who took part in the two-day Respect Aging Conference.
Held at the Day’s Inn in Stephenville, seniors, and those working with seniors registered from the southwestern region to come together for camaraderie, learning and fun; and according to the feedback they weren’t disappointed. “I look forward to more of these,” said another.
The day began on Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2016 with Bernice Hancock, Executive Director of Community Education Network, the coordinating agency of Southwestern Coalition to End Violence, welcoming the group and thanking them for their interest in Respect Aging. With a brief background of SWCEV and their commitment to Violence Prevention Initiatives, Bernice set the agenda in place for the next two days. She spoke of the important role seniors play in our communities, and congratulated David Rex, of Stephenville, on his recent provincial acknowledgment as one of Newfoundland and Labrador’s Seniors of Distinction.
Greetings were brought on behalf of the federal, provincial and municipal governments. The tone for the event was set when Laura Aylward, participant and Stephenville Town Councillor ended her welcome with Lucille Ball’s secret of aging…“is to live honestly, eat slowly and lie about your age.”
Laughter and energized chatter abounded when keynote speaker, Gerard Yetman, of AIDS Committee of NL introduced his topic for the afternoon regarding aging and sexual health. With The Best Sex in Years booklet as a resource, he spoke how the “norms around sexual health and aging must change.” That the misconceived concept that “older adults don’t have sex or enjoy it” is wrong. He went on to say that “sex is a normal part of life for all ages.”
During small group discussions, those in the room shared detailed scenarios that could have been anyone’s story. With plenty of time for exchange and information sharing, each group presented their scenario and their plan of recourse that they would do or offer in each situation. One such discussion was concerning cyber dating and when reported the group highlighted the importance of protecting oneself online. They gave several tips to follow including taking a friend with you for your first face-to-face meet. While they felt that they are not so tech-savvy, the best advice they felt they could give to anyone of any age, when it comes to online, “If it seems too good to be true, then it probably is.”
Also with AIDS Committee of NL, Jessica Hackett presented information regarding SWAP’s mobile needle exchange program, presently offered in Corner Brook, with hopes of it coming to the Stephenville area soon. She spoke briefly regarding drug addiction and harm reduction strategies among seniors. “Many older people are using pain meds regularly to get through each day.” SWAP allows a non-judgmental environment of safe needle disposal. It gives an opportunity to maintain safety in our communities and our children. Jessica feels “it is a win-win situation.”
Of course, it can’t be all training and information, there were many line dances, jigs and toe-stepping done during the evening dinner and entertainment with Flashpoint.
Growing older, for most of us is a scary thing and have many negative connotations surrounding it. Knowing and being aware of the many facets of our age is important. During Day Two, training and information was a little more serious, but vitally important. Violence among seniors is all too-often a common occurrence.
Following a relaxing self care activity administered by Sharon Williston, Program Support Assistant with BSG Status of Women Council (BSGSWC), Bernice and Janice Kennedy, Executive Director with BSGSWC co-facilitated a Respect Aging workshop with open discussions regarding the types of violence and how this violence is often inflicted, with the perpetrators, many times, being those who care and love our aging citizens. Working in small groups on case studies, many felt this brought new light and knowledge to an unpleasant but necessary topic. One participant spoke of how, “What is called violence today, wasn’t always thought of or called that.” With participation and feedback from the larger group focus was brought to the risk factors, but also to how seniors can protect themselves.
As the conference came to a conclusion, it was evident that the participants enjoyed themselves immensely, thanking the organizers for offering this opportunity and that they hope it becomes a regular event. With a list of contacts, resources and memories for a lifetime, new friends who had entered just two short days earlier as strangers vowed to meet again.
For more pics of the event check out our page.