MIDDLETON, N.S. - Middleton is one of the oldest places in Canada – not as a community, but as a population demographic.
Statistics Canada figures from 2016 put Canada’s 65-and-over population at 16.9 per cent and Nova Scotia’s at 19.9 per cent. Middleton’s seniors make up a staggering 30.9 per cent of the town’s population.
Those figures aren’t lost on Wayne St-Amour, the Nova Scotia Community College Middleton campus principal who is working with Nova Scotia Health Authority and other partners to make sure seniors have all the needed resources in place and that those services are accessible for healthy aging. He has plans to make NSCC Middleton a resource hub for all seniors-related needs, and while it would be community driven, his students could help make it all work.
“A lot of the originating ideas came from the current Adult Day program that we’ve been partnering with the Nova Scotia Health Authority on,” said St-Amour. “That program just celebrated its 10th year of operation.”
He said that program is about giving people who take care of seniors a chance to have some time for themselves.
“Having had that experience here we could see that there are some differences in the ways that people age in a rural setting compared to an urban setting,” he said. “So we spotted some gaps in resourcing, some gaps in support, at the same time big opportunity for partnerships – and the partnerships would be driven from the community level.”
While it’s all in the initial planning stages, St-Amour is confident not only that something needs to be done, but that it’s possible locally and soon.
“So with the Nova Scotia Health Authority locally we began conversations about what’s possible here and came up with the idea for a Centre of Rural Aging and Health,” St-Amour said. “The centre would have four areas of activity. One would be around healthy practices, which are things like how to stay safe in your home; looking at the way people could stay active through active living; the idea of what people sometimes talk about as purposeful health -- seniors helping seniors; and creating these very important networks, because socially active seniors basically stay healthier longer. These would be the kind of things that we would do along with nutrition, so nutritional advice.”
“Nova Scotia Health Authority, and in particular Seniors LINCS program, is excited to be a part of exploring the establishment of a Centre of Rural Aging and Health at the NSCC Middleton campus,” said Scott McCulloch, NSHA Western Zone seniors manager.
He said NSHA has a strong history of working with NSCC Middleton, specifically through the Seniors LINCS program.
That program has received three leading practice awards from Accreditation Canada related to programming for seniors in the Annapolis Valley communities.
“One of those awards was specific to the Adult Day program, which has operated out of NSCC for the last 10 years in a partnership between NSHA, NSCC and VON,” McCulloch said.
That program also won a provincial intergenerational award.
“For us, the opportunity to expose our students to a learning environment, that’s applied, that they could have practical experience in is very important,” said St-Amour, “and a number of our health programs would align very well with a centre like this, as would other programs. We know that seniors need help in their homes to stay in their homes longer and age well longer, so that’s everything from helping them with plumbing advice to how to save energy. And we have those programs here at the campus.”
But St-Amour said the centre would be a community effort.
“A lot of its operational activity would come from the community, so this is very much a community driven proposition, essentially building off what’s already here,” he said, “we would see existing service providers that are in the business, if you like, of serving seniors having the opportunity to participate with us via this location. Perhaps others providing services out of this location. And still others being part of an outreach, for example, that we would take particular services and bring them to groups of seniors who would have those needs.”
He referred to it as a remote hub of senior support.
“There are various ways. At the moment we’re exploring this as an idea,” he said. “We’ve had a consultation in Dartmouth, and we aim to have another consultation in the local area with our partners at the Nova Scotia Health Authroity.”
“This project fits well with NSHA strategic directions of engaging with Nova Scotians to create a healthier future, as well as high quality, safe and sustainable health and wellness services,” said McCulloch. “We recognize that especially in a rural environment, a critical consideration is engaging seniors in the community with programming opportunities.”
He said in particular, a site for programming that engages individuals socially and improves their health and wellness is needed and fits well with NSHA objectives.
“We feel this project has the opportunity to impact individuals, families, caregivers, and communities in a very positive way,” McCulloch said. “We look forward to continuing to partner with NSCC to provide leadership in enhancing opportunities that will help seniors in the community.”
St-Amour hopes a to set up that local consultation soon.
“We’d like to be able to have the consultation in the new year and explore this idea locally in more detail, see what the appetite was like, both from the seniors’ point of view and from potential partners,” he said, “and those that would be interested in having this serve as a hub to support seniors through their services.”
“I think what we’re trying to explore as well, is from a research point of view where some seniors’ needs are, and then use this as a bit of a model to say ‘okay, if something like this serves seniors in our vicinity through the existing agencies, networks, and activities is it something we could duplicate in another area in the province?’” St-Amour said.
“We’re very fortunate as NSCC to have campuses across the province, and we have programming that serves seniors needs by their nature – by the nature of the programs,” he said. “So maybe there’s an alignment here that we don’t know yet, so again, part of the exploration is to see ‘can this be something we can duplicate and make active and available in different parts of the province?’”