Revitalization of fall and winter senior programming after tough years

An older woman sits on the floor while looking at a laptop.
Cortes Connects is a new entity bringing back much needed programming for seniors this season. Photo courtesy of New Horizons for Seniors Program.
Loni Taylor - CKTZ - Cortes IslandBC | 13-10-2023
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Programming focused on engaging seniors has been revitalized for the fall and winter months following a rocky couple of years of losing funding and support from the Cortes Island Seniors Society (CISS).

Thanks to grant money from the New Horizons for Seniors Program, Seniors Helping Seniors has re-emerged, with programming lasting through the island's slowest months of the year.

During the pandemic, much of the programming was canceled as well. This is the first time seniors are seeing active and creative programming back in action for the winter months since 2019. The renewed programming is called "Cortes Connects." Ester Strijbos is responsible for writing the grants that are now funding the renewed programming, and explained how the pandemic increased need among aging populations. 

“People stayed at home, they didn't want to go out and a lot of them could not connect with friends and family except for the soon as the pandemic is over, let's try and put on some programming.”

In October 2022, an employee for CISS received an email that indicated the society had run out of funding to continue operations.

“Some sad news: the CISS is out of money. All programs are coming to a halt from November 1st on till the spring," the email said. The email was also the notification for those employed by the program that they were out of a job.

Any of the programming that was fully reliant on volunteer energy could continue. 

At the time of the announcement, CKTZ requested an interview with the president of CISS Carolyn Howson and she declined. The Senior Society also declined to support the programming, moving forward, citing a focus on senior’s housing. 

By April 2023, Esther Stribjos was able to secure funding through the New Horizons grant, which she applied for through the Cortes Community Health Association. The grant is annual, and will last until March 2024. 

This week, Kristen Scholfield-Sweet is being paid by the program funding to run a painting class. The former art professor described the benefits of the course.

“[The program] is offered with no barriers, and it's free, although the program is in fact paying me as an instructor, so that's a wonderful benefit…it's called painting with spirit…. I am creating the opportunity for people to paint on rawhide like I paint my drums.”

To hear more about how seniors are bringing back programming this season, listen to the CKTZ News Update below: