The city’s recreation co-ordinator Denise Skarra and manager of active living Deb Radolla

The city’s recreation co-ordinator Denise Skarra and manager of active living Deb Radolla

Seniors’ Centre funded for kitchen upgrade and courses

Seniors' Activity Centre receives grant for upgrading its kitchen and offering food courses.

A $20,000 age-friendly grant for Williams Lake is taxpayer’s money returning to the seniors of Williams Lake, Minister of State for Seniors Ralph Sultan said Wednesday when he presented the grant at the Seniors’ Activity Centre.

The grant will be used to create programs or tools that address the needs of older residents in Williams Lake.

A portion of the funds — $8,000 will go toward renovating the kitchen — which seniors estimate will cost $30,000 to $40,000 because it needs to be totally redone.

“We need appliances, new sinks, cupboards, and flooring,” said senior Lulu Forseille. “The freezers are good. We bought some new ones.”

The remainder of the funds will go toward free education programs, such as Food Safe courses for members and local farmers taught by Thompson Rivers University instructors.

Sultan described Cariboo Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett’s efforts to prompt Williams Lake to submit an application for a government program related to creating age-friendly communities as “tireless, outspoken, irascible, and in-your-face.”

Williams Lake was one of 27 communities receiving a grant for 2013.

“This is not a government skewed program,” Sultan said. “It’s very impartial, unbiased, objective assessment of merit.

“This year’s grant recipients were recognized for the importance they attached to offering a wide range of seniors’ services and for proposing measures which will make life easier for seniors in the community.”

The newly renovated kitchen will become a joint venture with the Cariboo Growers Local Food Co-op, a group of local farmers and market gardeners, who require a community kitchen. The kitchen will be available for use by the farmers and the seniors’ centre, and seniors will be mentored in food preservation and preparation. Cooking workshops called Meals to Go will be offered to teach cooking skills and will also provide enough meals for seniors to take home for dinners for a week.

Sultan took the opportunity to address elder abuse and said before he took on his role in government, he did not “really know what elder abuse was all about.”

“As it turns out I’ve been on a fast education track since September and learned that it is prevalent, widespread, upsetting and painful. It’s to be prevented and discouraged as best we can, whether the abuse of older people is physical, emotional or what’s increasingly common, financial.”

He’s heard that some seniors’ children cannot wait for their parents to die so they can “get their hands on the equity in the house” or other possessions.

“I think the government is scratching its head in trying to figure out what to do,” Sultan said.

The age-friendly planning and project grant program is a partnership between the government of B.C. and the Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM).

“Every day we get government funding is a good day,” Mayor Kerry Cook said. “We first heard about this program when we were at the UBCM conference in September when MLA Donna Barnett arranged a meeting for us with Minister Sultan.”

Thanking Deb Radolla, city manager of active living, who wrote the grant application with recreation co-ordinator Denise Skarra, said it is exciting to be in a partnership with the Seniors’ Activity Centre to help keep everyone active and healthy in the city.

“We came up with the idea that not only could we improve the kitchen at the Seniors Activity Centre, but we could also offer seniors some training in how to be able to age in place and stay in their homes a little bit longer,” Radolla said.

Cook said Williams Lake has also received $100,000 annually for the next three years toward Better at Home programs.

“We look forward to working with different groups to utilize that money.”