The Seniors Active Living Centre cultivates connection, purpose and good health

SALC members Jack Daley and Sandi Jones.

Sandi Jones spent many of her days since retirement in the comfort of her Arnprior home. That was until she heard about the Seniors Active Living Centre (SALC) last October and decided to stop by to play some cards.

One year later, Sandi says there are few days she’s not at the SALC enjoying her favourite activities: cards, falls prevention class and carpet bowling – or volunteering her time to help the team run the programming.

“It’s a comfortable place to be,” said Sandi, who has formed new friendships since becoming a member. “I’m no longer sitting on my couch at home anymore – I’m out meeting people.”

The SALC is a place where seniors participate in social, educational and recreational programming – and after its first anniversary has 460 members. It began with programs running two days a week from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and it now operates six days a week in multiple locations and includes an extensive list of activities, bus trips, socials, educational sessions and the Men’s Shed.

“Seniors came into the SALC and met some of their neighbours for the first time,” reflected Glenn Arthur, SALC Program Coordinator. “Nobody comes through our door without a smile – it’s a happy, warm and welcoming environment.”

Why a Seniors Active Living Centre?

The SALC was an idea that came from the Greater Arnprior Seniors Council as part of its focus on creating an age-friendly community.

“We started the SALC and Men’s Shed as part of our age-friendly commitments to the Greater Arnprior Region. And, after only one year it has been so effective in enabling seniors to live independent, healthy and active lives and stay socially connected with our community,” said Darrel O’Shaughnessy, Chair, Greater Arnprior Senior’s Council. “It is certainly a social healthcare innovation for sure.”

The SALC is made possible through a partnership between the Ontario Ministry for Seniors and Accessibility, Arnprior Regional Health, the Town of Arnprior and the Township of McNab/Braeside.

How it addresses the issue of social isolation among seniors

Social isolation is a well-known health and community issue for seniors and can be amplified in rural communities because of fewer transportation services, and in some cases less available family support because adult children have moved out-of-town for work or post-secondary school.

‘Social isolation has been well researched and is a health risk factor equivalent to diabetes impacting longevity and quality of life,” explained Dr. Jennifer Becker, local family physician who specializes in elderly care. “Seniors experience major transitions in rapid succession – possibly more significantly than at any other stage of life. But often these transitions can be underestimated and minimized, leaving seniors to feel more isolated.”

The SALC helps address social isolation by providing opportunities to cultivate connections.

“The biggest indicator that there is a need for the SALC is its overwhelming number of members,” said Dr. Becker. “By bringing together people who are experiencing similar life events, such as the loss of a spouse, there is powerful and necessary psychological and emotional support for the members.”

SALC is helping to transform the community

Programming continues to expand and evolve based on the feedback from the community.

“I see many changes – people stronger on their feet, making friends,” said Donna Leroux, Volunteer Coordinator, SALC. “Everyone accepts each other.”

Membership is targeted to people who are 55 years and older, living in the Arnprior and surrounding areas.

“The SALC is the best thing that ever happened to Arnprior,” said Sandi.