Diverse organizations rallying to a shared vision often experience friction, but there was only positive energy at the most recent gathering of New Brunwick’s healthy aging collaborative.
In fact, for Sheana Mohra, the October gathering of the Collaborative for Healthy Aging and Care was the most amazing meeting she’s attended yet.
“The feeling was so positive among all the members that we were able to generate ideas and thoughts all going in the same direction,” says Sheana, administrator with the St. John-based long-term care home Rocmaura Inc.
“It was exactly what you want a collaborative to be — people thinking together about how they could accomplish something for the greater good.”
Sheana credits international business coach and facilitator Charles Holmes’ skills in large part for this outcome as he fully immersed himself in the group’s context. This allowed him to quickly understand the group’s goals and work with them to effectively explore how results might be achieved.
The sense of harmony also no doubt grew out of participants’ shared belief that shifting New Brunswick’s culture of aging doesn’t require waiting for government to hand down appropriate funding.
“We’ve moved to thinking that we don’t have to be funded all the time,” Sheana says. “We have to figure out how to get this done, using the talents and resources that we already have and can just put to better use.”
The Collaborative for Healthy Aging and Care has been about three years in the making and consists of more than 30 organizations committed to sparking a positive shift in the culture of aging in the province.
The collaborative has already been making good strides in solidifying its legitimacy and presence, including through its organization of a political parties’ forum on seniors’ care just before the provincial election in September.
It was also instrumental in starting a project that increases transportation options for seniors in the rural area of Gagetown.
Denise Paradis is new to the collaborative, joining as executive director of the recently formed New Brunswick Continuing Care Safety Association. She hails from Alberta where she had heard of the collaborative through the Canadian Alliance for Long-Term Care.
“It’s so unique, I’ve never seen anything like it,” she says.
For both Denise and Sheana, the essence of the collaborative is that it offers a path for engaging all of society in shifting the culture of aging in the province.
“I think our biggest (calling) is getting the message across that everybody is responsible for how we age in the community,” Denise says.
As a long-term care home administrator, Sheana often sees needs that seniors have in the community that her home just isn’t able to respond to directly, given its resources and mandate. The exciting possibility she does see for her organization, however, is to partner with other organizations to create a way to generate a culture shift that then leads to meeting those needs.
At the October gathering, about 18 members discussed how the collaborative should be structured for the future, as well as its funding.
To date, the New Brunswick Association of Nursing Homes has been the primary sponsor, with director of operations Jodi Hall largely championing the effort.
“We don’t want (the collaborative) to feel like a corporate body in any sense,” Sheana says. “We want this to remain a grassroots, very open concept for people so they feel they can come and go and give of their talents (as they see fit).”
The collaborative has also been strongly committed to ensuring that everyone at the table has an equal say, regardless of the size of organization and resourcing behind them. It wants to continue with this commitment.
The collaborative is currently developing a business plan to submit to various philanthropic groups in hopes of attracting additional partnerships and funding.
Looking ahead, Denise is intrigued to see the nature of the provincial government’s engagement with the collaborative as it offers a robust democratic voice on issues.
“I think government has a really good opportunity to take advantage of a collaborative that does not have a top down approach,” she says.
Rocmaura itself is keen to help shift the culture of aging by creating a new community engagement co-ordinator role. This person would seek to draw connections between different community organizations in order to build joint programs for the benefit of the most vulnerable in the population.
The long-term care home sees lots of possibility in creating programs that enable more connections between children and seniors. The hope is this will contribute to strengthening people’s mutual sense of social responsibility as they get to know one another’s challenges, needs and gifts.
To learn more about Rocmaura’s proposal, contact Sheana at firstname.lastname@example.org
Writer: Michelle Strutzenberger
Editor’s Note: Click here to read about Axiom News’ partnership with Charles Holmes Consulting and the intent of the stories in this series.