To the seasoned eye, a series of funding announcements aimed at senior citizens is a sign of an impending election as sure as a red sky in the morning is said to be a harbinger for sailors of a rough day ahead.
Of course, there have been plenty of promises of federal cash spread around in recent weeks, and the would-be recipients come from all walks of life, so it isn’t the case that our Elders have been targeted in isolation. And depending on how the political winds are blowing this fall, who knows if anyone in any of these photo ops will see a dime of it?
Still, there is reason for celebration, namely the “New Horizons” that NWT MP Michael McLeod traced out for a number of seniors groups in town at the end of July — New Horizons being the nickname for this latest package of funding for about 3,000 projects, worth a total of more than $60 million across the country. The grants come in all sizes, ranging from, in Hay River for example, $5,000 for a simple-yet-probably-effective project at the Hay River Health and Social Services Authority to help seniors get gardening.
The active Hay River Seniors Society, which was among the groups that the municipal government specifically thanked for volunteering to help ensure a smooth break-up this spring, received $25,000 to help the organization encourage seniors to socialize. The society will use the money to acquire a storage shed and some furniture to spruce up the Alice Cambridge Room at Whispering Willows.
It’s a post-pandemic priority for the group, according to vice-chair Sandra Lester.
“It really is important and it is a goal of our society to develop a rapport for seniors to come and do things so they are not isolated in their homes,” she said.
The Soaring Eagle Friendship Centre got funding for a meal delivery program, which also has a heavy socialization aspect. And in Enterprise, the local society will focus on a jogging initiative, which has implications for physical and mental health, including socialization.
It’s all welcome and it’s all needed. It’s only going to be required even more in the coming years as seniors, including many, many Baby Boomers, remain the fastest growing demographic in the country and in the South Slave. According to the NWT Bureau of Statistics, 2,541 residents identified as being at least 60 years old in 2001. By 2020, that group had grown to include a staggering 6,594, and 1,426 of them were in the South Slave alone.
Seniors vote. They spent their lives helping to make this country what it is and they care about where it’s going. So McLeod and the rest of Team Trudeau are wisely watering those plants over the summer, hoping for a fall flowering of positive polls.
That’s fine. Maybe all of the funding announced in recent weeks will flow, maybe none of it will. Maybe the government of the day in the weeks and months ahead will be the same, or maybe it will be a season of change. Regardless of whoever is calling the shots from Ottawa, as long as there are groups like the Hay River Seniors Society and its territorial cousin, the NWT Seniors Society, connecting their memberships and identifying priorities for funding drops like New Horizons, our Elders will remain well-served.