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Services for seniors on display in Belleville

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Guests browse through the more than 100 exhibits from seniors-centred agencies and companies at the Quinte Sports and Wellness Centre on Wednesday in Belleville. Photo by Brendan Burke, QNet News

By Brendan Burke [1]

BELLEVILLE – A government-sponsored information fair focusing on seniors’ wellness returned to Belleville on Wednesday.

Seniors, spouses and caregivers were invited to attend the fifth annual Seniors’ Showcase Information Fair, which featured lectures, fitness classes and a fashion show for the city’s 50-plus age bracket. The event was hosted by the city of Belleville at the Quinte Sports and Wellness Centre [2].

More than 100 booths, displays and exhibitions filled the facility’s converted Rink B. Representatives from a wide range senior-oriented businesses, organizations and agencies, including the Canadian National Institute for the Blind [3], Quinte Gardens retirement home, the Belleville Lions Club, St. John Ambulance and the Victorian Order of Nurses handed out brochures and offered product demonstrations. The Quinte Red Cross was also on site.

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The city’s recreation program assistant, Karen Weichenthal, said many Belleville seniors aren’t aware of the services available to them. Photo by Brendan Burke, QNet News

The wide variety of the showcase is something that Karen Weichenthal, the city’s recreational program assistant and five-time event organizer, emphasized Wednesday afternoon.

“We have exhibitors that will range from travel agents to hearing centres – different businesses, community and health organizations. They’re all here to give information of what is available in the community for seniors,” she said.

Ontario’s Seniors’ Secretariat [4] – a provincial agency that advocates for improved quality of life for seniors through public education efforts and initiatives – funded the showcase through the Older Adult Centres’ Association of Ontario [5]. The association receives funds from the secretariat, which it then funnels to fairs and community-based spaces for older adults across the province, like the 50 Plus [6] club housed in the Quinte Sports and Wellness Centre.

According to the Older Adult Centres’ Association of Ontario’s affairs co-ordinator, Shelley Wesling, the provincewide group has backed information fairs for a decade, with 61 showcases planned for this year.

For seniors attending the information fair on Wednesday, reasons for visiting proved to be as diverse as the assortment of exhibits.

Joyce, an area resident who declined to give her last name, said she made the trip to gain insight on options for future long-term care.

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Shake it off: guests take in a free Qigong demonstration, one of several exercise tutorials featured at the seniors’ showcase information fair. Photo by Brendan Burke/QNet News

“I came to look for potential retirement centres in the Quinte and Tweed [7] area,” she said.

Her friend, Beth, said a simpler motivator brought her to the fair.

“It was something to do,” she laughed.

Organizers also provided fitness demonstrations and activities at the covered rink’s south end throughout the day. Instructors offered chair yoga, tai chi, Qigong [8]and gentle Pilates to the public.

The fair featured several lectures, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., covering a range of seniors’ issues, including health, aging and money management. An Ontario Ministry of Finance [9] representative gave a lecture called “Get your money! Understand Ontario credits and benefits for seniors,” while a talk on smart consumerism was given by the Ontario Ministry of Consumer Affairs [10].

Dianne, a Belleville resident who also declined to give her last name, sat in on the consumer lecture. She said the information showcase offers the public a one-stop destination for awareness about seniors’ issues.

“It’s a great way to find a lot of information in one place,” she said. “Plus they give you free stuff.”

On the public’s reception of the yearly Seniors’ Showcase Information Fair, organizer Weichenthal said the feedback has been positive.

“I get tonnes of great feedback – from seniors getting to see people they haven’t seen in years wandering throughout the fair, to not even knowing these organizations were available to them,” she said.

Attendance for Wednesday’s show was on pace to surpass last year’s 700-plus turnout, Weichenthal added.

In 2011 (the most recent year for which statistics are available), 19.2 per cent of the population of Belleville (excluding Thurlow ward) was 65 and over, according to Statistics Canada. The national rate was at 14.8 per cent.

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