Healthy Living in the North

Coming together on the shores of Babine Lake

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.


Group of people in community hall

“Our luncheons became a huge social thing. Granisle has a population of 300 and we had upwards of 75 people attending our lunch events!”

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.

With the help of IMAGINE Community Grants in 2014 and 2015, the Village of Granisle, a beautiful community of 300 people on the shores of Babine Lake, has responded to this 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!

People walking on path

The community luncheons were about more than just healthy eating! Some events included walks, information sessions, and routine tests from nurses.

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.”

Aerial photo of Granisle

“Come out to Granisle! It’s well worth a stop – it’s a beautiful place to visit and to be!”

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):

  1. “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!”
  2. “Lots of municipalities have grant writers. They are a great resource. Start your application process there.”
  3. “Forward grant opportunities far and wide. Everyone has the community’s best interest at heart and sharing information ultimately helps everyone out.”
Vince Terstappen

About Vince Terstappen

Vince Terstappen is a Project Assistant with the health promotions team at Northern Health. He has an undergraduate and graduate degree in the area of community health and is passionate about upstream population health issues. Born and raised in Calgary, Vince lived, studied, and worked in Saskatoon, Victoria, and Vancouver before moving to Vanderhoof in 2012. When not cooking or baking, he enjoys speedskating, gardening, playing soccer, attending local community events, and Skyping with his old community health classmates who are scattered across the world. Vince works with Northern Health program areas to share healthy living stories and tips through the blog and moderates all comments for the Northern Health Matters blog. (Vince no longer works with Northern Health, we wish him all the best.)

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Removing barriers to social isolation

This is the second in a series of posts that we’ll be sharing about social connections and healthy aging. Over the next three weeks, we want to see how you, your family, and your community stay connected. Enter our photo contest for your chance at great weekly prizes and a grand prize valued at $250!

Woman pushing man in wheelchair from bus to seniors centre.

How can you ensure that your community is inclusive and that people of all ages are able to connect?

I’ve heard the term “social isolation” being used a lot lately, but what does it mean? And how does it affect my health and well-being and the health and well-being of my family and community?

According to the Federal / Provincial / Territorial Ministers Responsible for Seniors, social isolation happens when a person experiences less social contact than they would like, which may lead to negative impacts like poor health, loneliness or other emotional distress. I’m sure everyone has experienced feeling social isolated; I know I certainly have when I’ve moved away from family and friends to new communities. But did you know that seniors are more at risk of social isolation and the negative health impacts that come with it?

As part of the normal aging process, seniors experience changes that shrink social contacts and limit activities, such as physical changes (like illness or disability), changes to personal lives (like losing a partner and social connections), social changes (like poverty) and changes in the environment (like accessibility barriers in the environment). All of these changes increase seniors’ vulnerability to social isolation and the consequences – such as loneliness, depression, poor physical and mental health, and reduced quality of life – are significant.

I know the impacts of social isolation sound scary, but the good news is that we are social by nature and we can prevent social isolation through creating environments that support social inclusion. We all have a role to play!

Crowd of people at Prince George Terry Fox Run.

How can you take down barriers to social connections in your community? The next time that you head to a community event – like the Terry Fox Run in Prince George – ask a senior if they need a ride or invite a neighbour to come along!

Here are just a few suggestions that I can think of that promote social inclusion and support us all to stay connected to our families, friends and communities as we age:

  • Are you a member of a community group, sports team, or social group? Host an open house, invite a friend or co-worker to join, and create a welcoming environment for new members!
  • Heading to a community event like a concert, craft fair, or farmers market? Ask around to see if anyone needs a ride to or from the event. Invite a neighbour to go to the event with you.
  • Invite a colleague, senior, neighbour or family member to have coffee, lunch or dinner! Eating together is a social activity and an opportunity to catch up and share stories.
  • Volunteer in your community. You can support a cause you believe in, meet like-minded people, and connect with vulnerable community members!
  • Connect with your local government about how we can plan for an age-friendly community that prevents social isolation.

What do you think? Do you have any examples on how to create inclusive environments for seniors in northern B.C., reducing the harms associated with social isolation? If so, show us as part of our photo contest for your chance to share your community’s story and win!

Photo Contest

From Oct. 12 – Nov. 8, send in a photo showing how you stay connected and healthy for your chance to win great prizes (including a $250 grand prize) and help your community!

The challenge for Week 2 is: “Show us how your community is inclusive!” Submit your photo at http://blog.northernhealth.ca/connect.

Sabrina Dosanjh-Gantner

About Sabrina Dosanjh-Gantner

Sabrina is the lead for healthy community development with local governments with Northern Health’s population health team. Sabrina was born and raised in Terrace and loves calling northern BC home. She has been with Northern Health since 2007 and is passionate about empowering, supporting and partnering with northern communities as we collaboratively work towards building healthier communities. In her spare time, Sabrina enjoys spending time with her family and friends, reading, playing and (sometimes obsessively) watching sports, hiking, camping, traveling and exploring the amazing north.

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