Most weeks you can find 83-year-old Pearl Larsen teaching an exercise class for her peers in the community room of her Homestead Land Holdings owned apartment building in the Bowling Green Complex in Kingston.
The senior is known as the Mother Hen of the Oasis Program, which supports adults 65 and older to live independently at home while offering community engagement activities, meals and support accessing services.
“The most importantly thing here is the togetherness, the caring, and encouraging each other to exercise. It has been very hard through COVID,” says Larsen.
Oasis has about 40 members currently who participate in various social activities together, including tea and coffee time, art sessions, knitting groups, movie afternoons and exercise classes. To build the sense of community, Oasis collaborates with Homestead Land Holdings to focus the tenant demographic of the building to seniors.
“You always have someone to call on,” adds Larsen. “Through our happiest moments and even our saddest.”
Oasis is a true example of a Primary Prevention Program that aligns with the aging well at home philosophy of the Frontenac Lennox & Addington Ontario Health Team.
Ashley Bates, the Oasis coordinator, says the program has been a leader in community services for a long time.
“We have our own community here. We have a buddy system so everyone has that emotional support. We have a couple of drivers, and everyone goes to get groceries together. Even through COVID they all worked together to make sure they stayed active physically and mentally and really tried their best to combat that loneliness so many people felt.”
Bates not only plans and facilitates programming, she also supports those in the program navigate resources.
“Our senior’s financials are our biggest concern right now. Can they afford to stay in their apartment? Can they afford to eat? Can they afford to have access to what they need? Everything is digital and a lot of our seniors don’t do digital, so my role also involves helping navigate them and getting them connected appropriately.”
85-year-old Valmore Dumais and his wife have been a part of the program for about 15 years and make a point to participate in the exercise classes offered.
“Everything is just honestly my favourite. We don’t want to move; this is home and has been home for a while. The main thing is the comradery and getting to know everyone who is here, we sadly miss the people have passed a great deal.”
72-year-old Dale Fainstat is one of the newest members of the group, saying she moved to the Bowling Green apartment less than one year ago for the Oasis Program specifically.
“I live alone with my cat, and it can get really lonely, especially in the wintertime. I wanted somewhere where there was places to gather with other people, a way to meet other people in the building and I love it. I’m down here almost every morning.”
Whether it is a shared laugh over coffee, a workout together or a friend to sit with on a hard day, Oasis continues to provide a close-knit-community where members can rely on one another to not only age well at home, but also thrive through the process.