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Seniors focus of Grand Forks health and wellness fair

Seniors needs from financial help, to legal rights, mental health and even leisure are in abundance in Grand Forks and the providers were more than happy to reach out with a public event.


The annual Seniors Health and Wellness Fair had 20 groups and services on display on June 13, turning the rink surface of the Grand Forks Curling Club into a showcase for services just for seniors and elderly. Hosted by Boundary Family Services and sponsored by Better at Home United Way and the BC Association of Community Response Networks, people were free to peruse booths from local businesses, social clubs and organizations to check out what they had to offer that was senior-friendly.


Among the booths were Beam Credit Union, the RCMP, United Way, Boundary Seniors Society, MLA Roly Russell’s constituency office, Grand Forks Fire/Rescue, RDKB and its FireSmart program and Free Rein Ranch. 


The fair coincides with World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, which was on June 15, explained Rachel Warriner 


“People want to help seniors in any way that they can,” Warriner said. “It’s a good awareness piece of what is available for seniors.”


While keeping the atmosphere positive and welcoming, the reason is to help keep seniors safe from dangers like crime, health emergencies and keeping them informed of their rights, Warringer said. Grand Forks is a senior-friendly community, she said, which is why this fair is held every year so people are aware of what supports are available and where they can find them.


A number of senior-friendly groups are missing this year due to scheduling conflicts, she said, but they are being promoted.


One booth that was a hive of activity was Beam Credit Union – formerly Gulf and Fraser and Grand Forks Credit Union – for many reasons. They were hosting free information sessions, as well as some games and prize giveaways. But the main topics of discussion were the union’s merger with Beam, as well as the financial services and protections they provide to members. 


Part of it was helping seniors adapt to financial services becoming more digital, which had a security element to it to protect against fraud and other financial crime. 


“We want to make sure our members protect themselves and we are the first stop for that,” said Craig Ekstrand, associate vice-president at Beam in Grand Forks. 


Among some of the most common fraud schemes targeting seniors in Grand Forks included romance and friendship scams, Facebook Marketplace scams, employment scams, rental scams, Bitcoin and gift card scams, email and text scams and fraudulent calls from CRA, Beam, Amazon and Microsoft. 

The calls, especially, are most concerning because of AI, phone number cloning, or “spoofing” and voice mimicking technology making it harder for people to determine if something is real or fake, said Sandra Makortoff, manager of compliance at Beam in Grand Forks. 


The best way for people to not fall victim is to talk directly to their financial institutions, she said. 


“The best thing to do is to ask questions to determine if something could be a scam and if they have fallen victim to a scam, there are options for recourse,” said Makortoff. “There are support systems for those who have fallen victim, like the Anti-Fraud Centre of Canada, as well as the RCMP who can investigate scams.”


The fair wasn’t just about legal protections, mental health and self-care options were also on display. One of the newer and more unique was Free Rein Ranch, which brought their miniature horses Freddie and Rebecca to demonstrate some of the equine-assisted programs they have, including carriage-driving classes. 


Their senior wellness program, known as Happy Movements, includes booking appointments to bring seniors out to groom and handle the horses on the ground, explained head facilitator Rebecca Walker. 


Horses are perfect for senior health and wellness because they are keenly aware of people’s emotions and body language.


“Horses are very astute and energize and rejuvenate us, “ she said. “For those people who are getting memory issues, this brings back a lot of memories, even if they didn’t have horses. It helps with cognitive ability and creativity and gives them a little zing.”


The physiology of horses helps calm people, she added, as well as getting people out in nature 


The program is also for people with disabilities who may need an outlet to help them ground themselves.

About the Author: Karen McKinley

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