Ron Boehm is one of the founding members of the Cariboo Country Ramblers (Kelly Sinoski photo, 100 Mile Free Press).

Ron Boehm is one of the founding members of the Cariboo Country Ramblers (Kelly Sinoski photo, 100 Mile Free Press).

Prime Time: Staying connected crucial for healthy aging

Staying social in a pandemic can be a tricky business.

Staying social in a pandemic can be a tricky business.

When the South Cariboo shut down after COVID-19 struck this spring, it meant no more social groups, fall fairs or even coffee klatches that had become the norm for the area’s seniors – the largest population in B.C. after Qualicum Beach. More than 51,.5 per cent of residents here are over 55, an age group considered highly vulnerable during this pandemic, and more are moving here all the time.

“Most of our seniors have had to hunker down like everyone else around the country,” said Ralph Fossum, president of the Age Friendly Society of the South Cariboo. “For seniors it might be even more challenging because outside activities are rather tricky. At the seniors centre they play pool, cards, carpet bowling, cribbage but clearly they were shut down as well.

“The number of activities the seniors can externally go to are very limited right now and that has an impact on their wellbeing.”

Staying active and connected are deemed the keys to healthy aging, according to B.C.’s Ministry of Health. Research suggests people with strong social networks are deemed to be more active, feel happier, and are more supported, while people without strong social networks may become isolated, leading to reduced mental and physical health, as well as depression.

Stress is also a factor, said Fossum. The Age Friendly Society is a registered BC Society with the purpose of “supporting people to age safely, enjoy wellness and to continue to live and participate fully in their communities.” But with physical distancing measures in place, it was unable to hold its usual events, which at times drew as many as 350 people.

The society, which includes members from Lac La Hache to Clinton, has reached out to members through email, but few are calling back, raising concerns that some may not be eating properly, exercising or getting outside for much needed Vitamin D.

“If people are not socializing then they are isolating. Being with others is a healthy thing,” Fossum said. “We tell seniors to ‘get out with your friends’ and we’ve had to tell them the opposite. When we see people isolating we see them going downhill.”

Elsie Urquhart, a longtime volunteer in the 100 Mile area, can attest to that. Urquhart recently lost her partner of 13 years, John ‘Lynn’ Merrick. Merrick had been in the Fischer Place Care Home when COVID hit, curtailing Urquhart’s twice-a-day visits to nothing. There were were no more bingo games, no home-cooked meals, no goodbye.

“When they said I couldn’t come in anymore that was really hard,” Urquhart said, wiping away tears. “I do find it lonely since I lost him.”

READ MORE: Work begins on Clinton seniors’ living facility

But she and others in the South Cariboo are proving to be a resilient lot.

Urquhart spent her summer with family – growing a garden, catching salmon and canning – and is back to volunteering with the reopened Stemete7uw’i Friendship Centre, Free Store in the basement of the St. Timothy Anglican Church and the Legion’s poppy campaign. She also keeps social by bowling at the Big Country Lanes, where she brings her own balls and shoes so she doesn’t have to share equipment.

“I’m not a great bowler but I love coming to meet people and just visit with friends,” she said. “We have fun and that’s the main thing.”

Others set up lawn chairs in parks to read together or visit, while the 100 Mile Cruzers continued to meet in unsanctioned gatherings outside A&W on Friday nights or did drive-bys past the seniors’ centres. Lac La Hache resident Ron Boehm sold his handmade frames at the Heritage Market at 108 and still meets up with his band, the Cariboo Country Ramblers, but expects it will be a quiet Christmas.

“With this thing starting up again it’s hard to get out,” he said, noting he hasn’t seen his grandchildren since the pandemic began. “We’re keeping our circles a little smaller. We’re more careful then we used to be.”

At the Stemete7uw’i Friendship Centre in 100 Mile House, which reopened on Oct. 1, all the regulars have returned but only six people are allowed in the building at one time. The Centre, open Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 10-2 p.m., primary functions as a drop-in centre where people can come relax, having a coffee in a warm and inclusive atmosphere. A meal is also offered, usually soup.

If they need clothing they can access free clothes in the Free Store in the basement of the St. Timothy Anglican Church next door, while referrals are provided to anyone who needs help.

“The people who come to our centre were missing our services. and missed that connection,” said Rob Diether, program host and coordinator. “I think we will see more people when words get out.”

The Age Friendly Society will be inviting input from seniors to find ways to keep active to reduce stress, especially with winter coming and a new legion of retirees who have moved here this summer to flee the rat race – or the pandemic – in the Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley.

Realtors note there is little property inventory left in the South Cariboo, particularly in Interlakes or South Green Lake communities.

“A lot of people are finding the South Cariboo now to be a good alternative solution. We are the becoming the new destination for living and the word is space,” Fossum said noting even the Okanagan is appearing too crowded these days.

But he acknowledges the growth “comes with some challenges” especially in rural or lakefront areas as people get older.

“People want city services and we don’t have those things. Buses are good example. There’s no transportation, no bus service so if they can’t drive they are isolated. We have good number of doctors but for much of our medical service we do have to go out of town.”

Fossum recommends seniors get some small weights or rubberized bands used for stretching and do it watching TV or the news to keep their muscle strength and bones strong.

“If you can find even one or two people to get out with and for a walk is important. I encourage people who don’t have that social group to phone a friend and challenge them to go for a walk with you,” Fossum added.

“I play cards with some people that works for some small groups. We’re being alert to what we can offer. We go too much into our heads and we’re not keeping our brains active. If we can challenge our brains, do a puzzle or play games. Any new hobby keeps us active.”

The Age Friendly Society can be reached at 250-395-4375 or by email: sc.agefriendly@gmail.com


newsroom@100milefreepress.net

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

100 Mile House

 

Elsie Urquhart finds social connections through volunteering and bowling. (Kelly Sinoski photo, 100 Mile Free Press).

Elsie Urquhart finds social connections through volunteering and bowling. (Kelly Sinoski photo, 100 Mile Free Press).

Willy Giesbrecht, left, Ron Boehm, centre, and Jim MacLean are part of the five-member Country Cariboo Ramblers. (Kelly Sinoski photo, 100 Mile Free Press).

Willy Giesbrecht, left, Ron Boehm, centre, and Jim MacLean are part of the five-member Country Cariboo Ramblers. (Kelly Sinoski photo, 100 Mile Free Press).

Elsie Urquhart finds social connections through volunteering and bowling. (Kelly Sinoski photo, 100 Mile Free Press).

Elsie Urquhart finds social connections through volunteering and bowling. (Kelly Sinoski photo, 100 Mile Free Press).

Just Posted

Ken Lucks is retiring from his post as principal of Mile 108 Elementary, following a 32-year career with the district. (Melissa Smalley photo - 100 Mile Free Press)
Mile 108 principal bids farewell

Ken Lucks retiring after 32-year career in education

The graduating class of 2021 from Peter Skene Ogden Secondary School. (Patrick Davies photo - 100 Mile Free Press)
PHOTOS: 2021 Grads enjoy reverse grad parade in Centennial Park

Around 75 of the 90 grads showed up too the park

Miguel and Krista Vieira are looking forward to being able to spend more time with their girls Makayla, left, and Hanna. (Mandy McLelland Photography - submitted).
70 Mile General Store owners moving on

Change comes after 34 years in the family

Jenna Harvey. (Photo submitted)
RCMP looking for missing woman between 100 Mile House and Williams Lake

Jenna Harvey was last heard from a week ago and claimed to be hitchhiking north

Hunter Wilson makes a break while playing pool with Tammy Mikkelsen at the Raven Youth Activity Centre. (Patrick Davies photo - 100 Mile Free Press)
Raven Youth Centre reopens doors

Centre has undergone some major changes

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

FILE – Most lanes remain closed at the Peace Arch border crossing into the U.S. from Canada, where the shared border has been closed for nonessential travel in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Thursday, May 7, 2020, in Blaine, Wash. The restrictions at the border took effect March 21, while allowing trade and other travel deemed essential to continue. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Feds to issue update on border measures for fully vaccinated Canadians, permanent residents

Border with U.S. to remain closed to most until at least July 21

A portion of the George Road wildfire burns near Lytton, B.C. in this Friday, June 18, 2021 handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, BC Wildfire Service *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Blaze near Lytton spread across steep terrain, says BC Wildfire Service

Fire began Wednesday and is suspected to be human-caused, but remains under investigation

Blair Lebsack, owner of RGE RD restaurant, poses for a portrait in the dining room, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. Canadian restaurants are having to find ways to deal with the rising cost of food. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Canadian restaurateurs grapple with rising food costs, menu prices expected to rise

Restaurants are a low margin industry, so there’s not a lot of room to work in additional costs

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
Fort St. John man arrested after allegedly inviting sexual touching from children

Two children reported the incident to a trusted adult right away

Barbara Violo, pharmacist and owner of The Junction Chemist Pharmacy, draws up a dose behind vials of both Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines on the counter, in Toronto, Friday, June 18, 2021. An independent vaccine tracker website founded by a University of Saskatchewan student says just over 20 per cent of eligible Canadians — those 12 years old and above — are now fully vaccinated. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
At least 20% of eligible Canadians fully vaccinated, 75% with one dose: data

Earlier projections for reopening at this milestone didn’t include Delta variant

This undated file photo provided by Ernie Carswell & Partners shows the home featured in the opening and closing scenes of The Brady Bunch in Los Angeles. Do you know the occupation of Mike Brady, the father in this show about a blended family? (Anthony Barcelo/Ernie Carswell & Partners via AP, File)
QUIZ: A celebration of dad on Father’s Day

How much do you know about famous fathers?

Emily Steele holds up a collage of her son, 16-year-old Elijah-Iain Beauregard who was stabbed and killed in June 2019, outside of Kelowna Law Courts on June 18. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
Kelowna woman who fatally stabbed teen facing up to 1.5 years of jail time

Her jail sentence would be followed by an additional one to 1.5 years of supervision

Cpl. Scott MacLeod and Police Service Dog Jago. Jago was killed in the line of duty on Thursday, June 17. (RCMP)
Abbotsford police, RCMP grieve 4-year-old service dog killed in line of duty

Jago killed by armed suspect during ‘high-risk’ incident in Alberta

Most Read