IMAGINE Community Grants provide funding to a variety of groups with projects that make northern communities healthier. Our hope is that these innovative projects inspire healthy community actions where you live! Check out the story below and read more IMAGINE Community Grant stories.
This story was originally published in Healthier You magazine.
Across Canada, research has shown that over 90% of older adults live independently in the community and wish to remain there. In smaller northern communities, however, supporting older residents to age in place can be a challenge.
Granisle was named an Age-Friendly Community in 2014 and ever since, "for every project we do, our first thought is: how can this be inclusive and accessible," said Lisa Rees, office assistant with the Village of Granisle. "Our IMAGINE-funded projects flow out of this designation."
So, what did they do?
"We've got two projects under the same healthy living umbrella," said Rees. "The first of those projects is a monthly healthy eating luncheon for seniors; the second, an exercise program for seniors."
Don't be fooled by the "for seniors" label, though, because these projects don't turn anybody away! "Our luncheons became a huge social thing," said Rees. "Granisle has a population of 300 and we had upwards of 75 people attending our lunch events!" The project promotes health not just through healthy eating, but also through social connections!
With an IMAGINE grant paying for the healthy food, the luncheons were designed with accessibility, learning, fun, and community in mind:
- Attendees got a free, hot meal. Extra food was delivered to vulnerable local residents unable to leave their homes.
- Different groups hosted the luncheons in different locations. The local Lions Club, local Council, Seniors Association, and local school all hosted luncheons. The event at the school was held together with an open house, showing that the school could be a community gathering space.
- Before a summer park luncheon, attendees were invited to join a walk along a local trail and rubberized path.
- Local health nurses joined the luncheons and offered participants health information and the chance to complete some routine health tests.
- Along with their meals, attendees got to see nutrition tips from registered dietitians on their tables.
"It was more than just healthy eating," said Rees. "People would sit and linger over coffee, we had local students helping with the cooking when the school hosted a luncheon, and programs like Better At Home did presentations."
The second Granisle project tackles another important risk factor: sedentary behaviour.
"We want to help community members in Granisle to stay active," said Emily Kaehn, economic development/administrative coordinator with the Village of Granisle. "With our new IMAGINE funds, we're buying exercise gear – walking poles, ice grippers, snowshoes, yoga equipment, exercise bands, and more – to stock a local equipment library. Preventing injury and keeping older adults active is key to aging in place."
Looking ahead, the Village of Granisle is looking for funding to continue the monthly luncheons and is hoping to expand the exercise gear program into broader recreation programming. "Partnerships are key," said Kaehn. "The clinic and women's group are involved in our exercise program and there are many clubs and groups involved in the luncheons. In a small community, it takes a lot of hands to get things to fruition and the village has really come together around health and aging."
When probed for her last thoughts about the community and its healthy living projects, Lisa Rees encouraged everyone to check it out for themselves: "Come out to Granisle! It's well worth a stop – it's a beautiful place to visit and to be!"
Learn along with residents of Granisle! Here are just a couple of the healthy eating tips from their monthly community luncheons:
- What small change can you make today? Consider water instead of pop to drink, or turkey instead of beef in your chili.
- Develop your Sodium Sense. Flavour foods with herbs and spices instead of salt. An herb like thyme is tasty with chicken, veal, salads, and vegetables!
Three grant writing tips from Emily Kaehn (Village of Granisle):
- "The IMAGINE grant process was very straightforward. Program staff were very supportive. If you are thinking of applying and have an idea, call them first!"
- "Lots of municipalities have grant writers. They are a great resource. Start your application process there."
- "Forward grant opportunities far and wide. Everyone has the community's best interest at heart and sharing information ultimately helps everyone out."