Sainte-Rose MNA Skeete announces $2.7 million in funding for Senior Wellness Centres

Chomedey’s Agape Senior Wellness Centre to receive up to $160,000 over three years

The Chomedey-based Agape Senior Wellness Centre is one of several dozen existing and planned wellness centres across Quebec which will be receiving $2.7 million in provincial government financial assistance that was announced last week by Sainte-Rose MNA Christopher Skeete, parliamentary assistant to Quebec’s Premier with responsibility for relations with English-speaking Quebecers.

According to a press release issued on June 21 by the Secretariat for Relations with English-Speaking Quebecers, the money is being provided over a three-year period to the Community Health and Social Services Network (CHSSN) to implement a program that will reduce social isolation for vulnerable English-speaking seniors.

Wellness centre model

Modelled on an existing plan for day centres for seniors, Senior Wellness Centres offer a variety of activities, services and educational programming to promote physical and psychological health and prevent health problems among seniors whose housing needs are already being met. The centres’ offerings include physical activities, nutrition workshops and educational sessions on legal issues and access to care.

“The Community Health and Social Services Network is delighted that the government of Quebec has announced its financial support to ensure the sustainability of the existing Wellness Centres for English-speaking seniors and to establish new centres of this kind throughout the province,” Jennifer Johnson, executive-director of the Quebec City-based CHSSN, said during a webcast announcement last week.

A community approach

“This initiative, with its innovative, cost-effective, community-based approach to breaking down isolation among seniors, builds on the rich history of volunteerism in Quebec’s English-speaking community. The network is ready to take this initiative under its wing and to contribute all its expertise to ensure that these investments succeed.”

Sainte-Rose MNA Christopher Skeete, parliamentary assistant to the Quebec Premier with responsibility for relations with English-speaking Quebecers, announces the $2.7 million in funding for Senior Wellness Centres, with CHSSN executive-director Jennifer Johnson on the right.

“With a much lower rate of bilingualism than other age groups, English-speaking seniors are among the most vulnerable people in Québec society, and the COVID-19 pandemic has made them only more vulnerable,” said Skeete. “With its varied offering focused on prevention, the Senior Wellness Centres program will enable English-speaking Quebecers to receive suitable care and services and thus alleviate their needs in this regard.”

An aging English population

The secretariat says the investment will strengthen the program’s funding in the 43 existing wellness centres across the province, while supporting the program’s implementation at 32 new centres in Quebec regions where access to services is limited, including Gaspésie, Côte-Nord and certain areas of Estrie and Outaouais.

The secretariat notes that more than a quarter of all English-speaking Quebecers are now age 55 or older, and many are especially isolated and vulnerable and have major needs for health and social services.

The secretariat says the funding will help to achieve four main goals: keeping the Senior Wellness Centres program sustainable, extending its coverage to areas of Quebec that are less well served, increasing the centres’ capacity so that they can serve more seniors, and ensuring the deployment and coordination of new and existing centres.

Funding over three years

Kevin McLeod, executive-director of the Youth and Parents AGAPE Association Inc., said the Agape Senior Wellness Centre will be receiving $45,000 for 2020-2021, $45,000 for 2021-2022, and $70,000 for 2022-2023 (the latter figure being contingent on developing a program for seniors in the eastern part of Laval). According to McLeod, the funds will be managed by the CHSSN “with all their experience,” he said.

“Together, with the CHSSN and many other English-speaking organizations across Quebec, Agape has been working with the Quebec government for several years now to fund these much-needed senior wellness centres,” said McLeod, noting that Agape’s efforts to open an SWC started back in March of 2017 and continued through 2019, including a consultation, hosted by Agape, that was held by Christopher Skeete and the Secretariat for relations with English-speaking Quebecers in Laval in October of 2019.

Shared vision of SWCs

McLeod said Agape had opened a smaller version of the SWC in March 2018 with the help of Mille-Îles MNA Francine Charbonneau who was then Minister for Seniors, and MNA Guy Ouellette with help from “Québec Ami des Ainés” program funding. This sustained the centre until March 2020.

With the CHSSN and many other English-speaking organizations across Quebec, Agape has been working with the Quebec government for several years now to fund the much-needed senior wellness centres

“For the last year, we have been sustaining our centre with the help of personal ‘MNA funding’ from Guy Ouellette and Christopher Skeete,” added McLeod. “We have also had financial support from Desjardins Caisse de Chomedey and city councillor for Chomedey Aglaia Revelakis. In 2021 we’re so happy that the Quebec government shares our vision for these SWC’s.

Sources of funding

“Their funding will cover many activities that are related to health and wellness such as presentations, exercise, drama therapy and iPad courses. But know that we are still counting on other funding sources and supporters, such as CHSSN/Health Canada, Canadian Heritage, Guy Ouellette, Christopher Skeete, The Laval News, Desjardins Caisse de Chomedey, Aglaia Revelakis and membership fees which will help pay for activities, workshops, courses and clubs.”

McLeod said that through the pandemic, the Agape Senior Wellness Centre contact list of seniors doubled from 350 to 700 English-speaking seniors. “These are exciting times,” he noted. “We estimate that yearly costs to operate this big centre including salaries, rent and all of its many activities will require over $140,000 per year. With everything now in place, we expect to re-open the bigger and improved Agape English-speaking Senior Wellness Centre in August 2021.