Dancing, singing, and a complement of musicians from many different cultures was what over 800 festival attendees experienced during World Fest, A Seniors’ Celebration of Cultures, in the summer of 2019.
Organized and hosted by the Tri-Cities Seniors Planning Network (TCSPN), this very successful event in Coquitlam, BC also included 25 exhibitors, free food tasting from six different cultures and 14 different kinds of entertainment, mainly performed by seniors.
The mission of the Tri-Cities Seniors Planning Network is to stimulate action by seniors to dramatically improve the lifestyle of Tri-Cities seniors by becoming Age-Friendly communities, and here they were. Picture a ukulele group, both Chinese Mandarin and the MOSAIC Multicultural choirs, a Chinese traditional fashion show, Korean drummers, a Filipino dance group, the Glen Pine Dance Troupe and an Iranian Traditional Dance with music that included an 83 year old violinist. At least 50 festival participants tried out an Iranian dance workshop, dancing without stopping for almost an hour!
The day began with a set-up of tents, tables, and chairs. Being weather dependent, it was a happy moment when the sprinkling of light rain turned into sunshine in the grassy park. Twenty-five exhibitor tents went up and a large marquee tent was made available to shade elder attendees from either rain or a sunny, hot skies. The event was free, but there was still a registration check-in as well as a walk-in registration site for exhibitors, entertainment performers, and participants.
Everything was prepped and ready for the day, World Fest opened with a traditional welcome from Chief Ed Hall of the Kwikwetlam First Nation. The scheduled program ran smoothly and throughout the day, seniors were up dancing, singing, and enjoying a multicultural experience.
In the words of Ken Kuhn, the Tri-Cities Seniors Planning Network Coordinator, it was a “tremendous success”.
Volunteers play an important role in the success of TCSPN. “One of our members, Peter Sargent, loves to volunteer at our events as he likes to make connections and is also one of our best advocates for seniors and getting action. Another dedicated member is Bill Lawrie. Not only is he dedicated as a volunteer and promoter of TCSPN, but he makes sure that all of our waste from events goes into the proper recycling bins. For our 800 attendees for the World Fest, he had a huge job at our recycling station—and worked tirelessly all day collecting paper plates from our attendees throughout the park”, states Ken.
The Tri-Cities (Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam, and Port Moody, as well as Anmore and Belcarra) communities includes almost 32,000 people age 65 and older, making up 13% of the total population. The TCSPN was established in 2012 in response to a community development project involving a series of focus groups and forums with seniors and seniors service providers on issues affecting Tri-Cities seniors. The result of the process pinpointed areas of concern and effort needed to build an age-friendly community in the Tri-Cities.
The TCSPN now consists of a variety of seniors, senior serving business’ and agencies including: Alzheimer Society of B.C.; CARP North Fraser Chapter; Fraser Health Authority; SUCCESS/MOSAIC; RCMP Community Policing; SHARE Family Services; Wilson Centre; Municipal Pension Retirees Association; BC CRN (Community Response Network); Community Volunteer Connections; Coquitlam Public Library; Port Moody Rotary Club; Port Moody Police; Vancity Credit Union; GlenPine Pavilion/Dogwood Pavilion and many long term care homes.
Since their establishment, TCSPN has been involved in its communities in a multitude of ways. This has taken place in a number of forums around the topics of Transportation, Housing, BC Election All-Candidates, Elder Abuse & Wellness, Age-friendly Cities, Household Preparedness, and Pathways to Better Health. Many other kinds of events have taken place as well and these have included Christmas and Valentines Day. A general meeting is held every two months and includes two speakers making presentations with free coffee and goodies at every meeting.
The details of TCSPN’s community forums and events:
• In 2014, the TCSPN hosted a small Transportation Forum to discuss concerns and solutions for transportation in the Tri-Cities and Lower Mainland for seniors and had about 90 attendees.
• In 2016, the TCSPN hosted a Housing Forum. There were about 200 attendees, 23 exhibitors, keynote speakers (including BC Seniors Advocate Isobel Mackenzie), door prizes, and complimentary luncheon & coffee.
• In April 2017, the TCSPN hosted a BC Election All-Candidates Forum. There were about 100 in attendance (it was too early in the election process as the writ had not been dropped), and lots of good publicity with 10 of 12 candidates in attendance. All participants received a very nice insulated shopping bag with lots of goodies inside.
• On June 8, 2018, the TCSPN hosted an Elder Abuse & Wellness Forum, had 225 attendees, 32 exhibitors, panel discussion, and 14 different workshops offered. A free luncheon was included, many draw prizes, and lots of swag for attendees.
• On July 13th, 2019 TCSPN held a very successful World Fest—A Seniors’ Celebration of Cultures where there were about 800 attendees, 25 exhibitors, free food tasting from six different cultures and 14 different entertainment offerings (dancing, singing, musicians) from many different cultures.
• On October 1st, 2019 a Towards an Age-Friendly Tri-Cities Forum was hosted where they had 300 attendees, 25 exhibitors, 5 different workshops, free lunch for attendees, draw prizes, and lots of swag for participants.
• TCSPN held a General Meeting with two speaker presentations, free coffee & goodies every two months.
• On December 17th, 2019 they held a Christmas Gathering with about 95 attendees, 2 presenters, a free luncheon, and draw prizes.
• On January 23rd, TCSPN hosted a Household Emergency Preparedness Forum with about 125 attendees, Port Moody Fire-Rescue presenters and Fraser Health Authority presenters, and a free luncheon was provided.
• For Valentine’s Day on February 14th there were about 90 attendees, 2 presenters, a free luncheon, and draw prizes.
• TCSPN had a Pathways to Better Health Forum planned for March 25th with 300 registered, 10 different workshops, and luncheon provided free. Sadly the event had to be postponed (and now cancelled) due to COVID.
• In addition, the TCSPN offers information sessions on topics of interest to seniors, such as Decluttering, BC211, Emergency Preparedness, Power of Attorney & Representation Agreements, prescribing of drugs, and more, in a safe and welcoming environment.
As Ken says, “the events bring people together in our community and helps combat isolation—and offers many of them opportunities to volunteer and give back to their community. I enjoy the feeling that our seniors are appreciating their involvement and meeting other seniors in their neighbourhoods—connecting with others of similar interests—a sense of belonging that we all need.”
Overall, TCSPN has about 600 seniors who attend their events on a regular basis.
How has TCSPN adapted to Covid-19? Online updates and Zoom webinars have been conducted and a network of volunteers has been formed to deliver, cost-free, groceries and prescriptions to seniors.
Presently, the Tri-Cities Seniors Planning Network is in the process of transitioning to the Tri-Cities Seniors’ Action Society. This will allow them to be self-sufficient and able to apply for grants.