The Seniors Active Living Centre (SALC) in-person programming may be on hold temporarily due to COVID-19, but that has not stopped Dana McCabe, the new Program Coordinator, to work with her team to find new ways to keep local seniors connected and engaged—while also planning at full speed for when members can gather again.
“The virtual programming has been great – it’s a really good temporary solution for our members but it is just not the same as when we can actually be together onsite,” said Dana, who started her role in May 2021 following Glenn Arthur’s retirement.
Dana began her career as a program coordinator for the City of Ottawa. She took a pause to raise her family, moved to Renfrew County and over the past five years has worked multiple part-time jobs in Arnprior including at the Nick Smith Centre.
“When COVID hit last year, I was put on CERB because of my part-time role. I just thought I want to get out there and do something, so I started working with Seniors at Home. I would go into seniors’ homes and help with light housekeeping, gardening, landscaping, grass cutting – whatever needed to be done.”
This provided Dana with a better understanding of what was available to seniors locally and led her to her current SALC role.
Prior to the pandemic, Dana was introduced to the SALC when she started up the Boxing for Parkinson’s Program at the Centre.
“It’s just a wonderful place and it fills such a huge need. I could instantly tell when I walked through the doors that people were put at ease, made to feel welcome, and made to feel like they still had something to offer.”
Welcoming members back
As part of Ontario’s phased reopening, the SALC cannot host indoor group programming, yet. To help members come back together as soon as possible, Dana and the team have focused efforts on launching the SALC Lawn and Gardens and The Slab where outdoor group activities can run as soon as its complete in the coming weeks.
“We’re all looking forward to seeing one another again,” reflected Dana. “Having those live, in-person interactions are so important because I do believe we are social beings, and we need that kind of feedback.”
The SALC Lawn and Gardens is located behind the Centre and The Slab is in the parking lot – both areas are being setup with a canopy and flower planters built by the Men’s Shed. These spaces will accommodate bridge games, knitting groups, arts and crafts, book club, poetry sessions and more.
“With the new SALC Lawn and Gardens opening soon, we are looking at partnering up with some downtown businesses to offer members discounts,” shared Dana. “For example, members can stroll over to a shop for discounted coffee and come back to the SALC Lawn and Gardens for a coffee and a chit chat.”
Another focus for Dana and the team is taking advantage of the new outdoor space to introduce intergenerational programming.
“Our seniors have all this life experience and wisdom and I think it’s so important they’re still treated with respect and held up in a light that they can pass along their stories and wisdom to all of us.”
One of the first intergenerational project will be arts and crafts in the SALC Lawn and Gardens. The current idea is to focus on a grandmother and granddaughter activity where they gather stones to paint with positive messages and inspiring quotes and then sprinkle them around town.
“I know the members can’t wait for us to be able to open our doors and get started again,” said Dana. “I am really looking forward to meeting everyone face-to-face and building on this already amazing foundation.”