Mary Forbes (left) is sometimes referred to as the North Cariboo Queen of Recycling, but her actual job title is as a waste-wise educator with the Cariboo Chilcotin Conservation Society (CCCS). Amber Gregg (right) also works for the CCCS and is the Wild Safe BC coordinator. Raven Nyman photo.

Age friendly in the Cariboo: Seniors Fair makes for a great social event

‘I was kind of in awe when I walked in’

The Seniors Resource Fair proved that the Cariboo region is age-friendly with another impressive event at the South Cariboo Rec. Centre on Thursday, June 20.

Jackie O’Gorman and Donna Morrison are both volunteers on the steering committee of the Age Friendly Society. They volunteered at the Seniors Resource Fair last year, too and said this year’s event was wonderful.

Sheri Salo attended the Seniors Fair as a member of the South Cariboo Weavers, Spinners, and Fibre Artists.

“I’m spinning silk,” she explained without missing a beat of her foot peddle.

Depending on what project you’re working on and the material being used, spinning or weaving can take differing amounts of time.

Anita Stoughton is also a member of the group. During the group’s time at the Seniors Fair she used Merino for a project, a wool collected from an Australian breed of sheep.

Roze Sander made up the third member of the group, and she was spinning alpaca fleece from alpacas she raised herself. About 36 members from all over the South Cariboo are involved with the club, said Sander: “From 70 Mile to Lac la Hache. We do within a 100 mile radius.”

The group even has one male member who is completing his masters in weaving. Their work will be displayed throughout the coming week at the Sunrise Ford Dealership as part of the Art Crawl.

Liz Jones works with the Adult Day Service Program in 100 Mile House and was on site to spread the word about the Adult Day program on Thursday: “The more people that know about it the better. We’re kind of a jewel in the dark. This is our 30th year in 100 Mile.”

Read More: Annual Seniors Resource Fair a huge success for all involved

The program provides all sorts of services to seniors and those who attend get to experience highlights such as Murphy the therapeutic St. Bernard, who visits the Adult Day program once a week. Murphy lives in the 108, but always brings a smile to the seniors in the program, said Jones.

“Some people don’t have any other access to getting out, so they can come to us, socialize, and get mental and physical activity. We try to do as many outings as possible.”

The program provides brain food like word searches, crossword puzzles, drawings, and lively discussions to help keep participants feeling sharp. When it was particularly cold one winter, the organizers even brought Hawaii to the Adult Day Program. From judo-based exercises to badminton with a balloon or soccer with soft balls, volunteers do everything they can to keep participants feeling included and worthwhile in the community.

Other interesting booths featured at the event included the South Cariboo Genealogy Group, who meet to research and discuss their ancestry and backgrounds. Philip Konrad is a facilitator who was on site to represent 100 Mile House’s Parkinson SuperWalk that will take place on September 7 at 1 p.m. in Centennial Park. Konrad’s family has been personally affected by Parkinson’s disease, which is why he helped to bring the SuperWalk to the community. The SuperWalk is the largest annual fundraising event for Parkinson Society BC.

Jenny Baker is a young entrepreneur who brought over 200 business cards to her first Seniors Fair this year but left with less than a handful.

“I was kind of in awe when I walked in,” said Baker. “There are so many booths here today. This is amazing, I’m so happy that the Age Friendly Society puts on this event.”

Baker is a local who identified a gap within the community that she has since endeavoured to fill.

“I just started April 1,” she explained. “I’m actually a certified care aid. I’ve worked in home-support and assisted living facilities and this is kind of a gap that I’ve seen in our community. There was nobody to drive people to appointments or come in and do cooking. Now you’ve got me.”

Baker says that some of her most frequent requests include chaperoning trips to Kamloops, Kelowna, or Williams lake for vacuolar degeneration shots, but she provides a variety of offerings through her business, Sunshine Senior Services.

Related: We have a voice: An Age Friendly perspective

The 100 Mile House and District Blind and Visually Impaired White Cane Club has been serving the Cariboo since 1991 and returned to the Seniors Resource Fair this year. The club offers support and resources to visually impaired individuals and their families, but many visually impaired people are not recognizable as such, and 90 per cent of blind people have some sight. One in nine Canadians will develop irreversible vision loss by age 65, so spreading education and awareness related to vision loss is quite important for seniors.

On Sundays, the White Cane Club runs the Cedar Crest Society thrift store in town and proceeds from the Sunday sales go to their club. “We’ve been doing that for just over three years,” said club member Jim Vinson, “But still a lot of people don’t know we’re doing it. We’re there every Sunday. It’s a great fundraiser.”

Vinson is legally blind and explained that the white cane symbolizes blindness, courage, and an independent spirit, despite some members of the public confusing its symbolism with a connection to age alone.

Lori Fry is the only remaining founding member of the club, which is a chapter of the Canadian Council of the Blind.

Fry says that the Seniors Fair is one of the club’s best platforms and that many who attend are interested in acquiring information not only for themselves but for family members.

Vision loss affects most people due to natural ageing, explained Fry, but technology has removed many barriers for the blind.

“There is life after vision loss,” she said, and that’s what the club hopes to share. “It’s scary at times, it’s challenging, but it’s doable.”

The White Cane Club will hold an informal gathering on Thursday, July 4 from 1 to 3 p.m. at the United Church, 49 Dogwood Avenue. Members will be there to provide information and address individual concerns related to vision loss.

Frank Urbschat is a member of the Canadian Pickleball Association who stopped by the Seniors Fair to have a bit of fun demonstrating how the sport is played. He was joined by fellow members Len Aune (red shirt), Sylvia (no last name, jacket), Pat Anderson (blue sweater), and Marg Mitchell (green). Fire Chief Roger Hollander and Deputy Fire Chief Brandon Bougie even made time to join in a game.

Pickleball is on at the Rolf Zeis Memorial Arena in Lac la Hache every Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday. Drop-in play costs $3.50 a day. Pickleball looks like tennis, sounds like ping pong, and favours similar movements to badminton.

Mary Forbes is sometimes referred to as the North Cariboo Queen of Recycling, but her actual job title is as a waste-wise educator with the Cariboo Chilcotin Conservation Society (CCCS).

Forbes and her fellow volunteers worked at the Seniors Fair out of a booth that was repurposed from a “previously dead” trailer that Forbes found in her neighbour’s yard: “I took it home, made it magical, now here it is.”

Forbes loves to refurbish old materials and was on site Thursday with the CCCS to offer instruction on composting and recycling guidance. The CCCS even has a travelling compost machine called Igor that helps the CCCS to process compostable materials on the go.

Lined up next to the event’s concession station, Forbes revealed a small bag of garbage accumulated from the day, explaining that one of the packages used was actually not recyclable, despite its advertising indicating otherwise.

“This is garbage, not compostable,” she explained. “People buy them because they say they’re compostable, but this is contamination.” The scam is a common one that negatively impacts both the consumer and the environment since there is no regulation for compostable products. “It’s a huge problem. That’s why we have so many waste educators.”

Amber Gregg also works for the CCCS and is the Wild Safe BC coordinator. Gregg said the fair was great this year and lunch was superb, too. Gregg boothed alongside Forbes and Mary Carson-Ford, who works at the Interlakes Landfill and is hailed as the South Cariboo Queen of Recycling. Forbes explained that official recycling programs are just entering local indigenous reserves and the transition is creating jobs in the process through what she jokingly called “the emancipation of recycling.”

Out of all to take away from the Seniors Fair, one local came away with what she considered the best prize of all. Dayle Kaye proved that simple pleasures are often the most profound when she was gifted a special treasure from Mary Forbes.

“I won a bucket of poop,” proclaimed Kaye with a smile. Kaye is from 94 Mile and explained that the bucket of poop she held, actually worm casings, are considered “pure gold” for her home garden.

“This is the best door prize I’ve ever won. I couldn’t have got anything nicer. I’m quite happy with my bucket of poop.”

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