June is Seniors’ Month in Ontario and a time to celebrate the contributions and achievements that older adults have made to the Thunder Bay community. It is also a time to reflect on the health and social issues impacting older citizens, including their heart health. The theme for Seniors’ Month is stay active, stay connected and stay safe. Northern Hearts, a local non-profit charity with a focus on heart health, wants to support the themes of seniors’ month by providing education and heart-healthy programming to help reduce heart disease within the senior population in Northwestern Ontario.

Staying active is the first theme of Seniors’ Month and it is suggested to prolong optimal health and reduce the risk of heart disease, especially amongst the senior population.  The Public Health Agency of Canada suggests that heart disease occurs more often as Canadians age. With age comes an increased risk of heart disease as the heart muscle attempts to adjust to stiffening blood vessels and arteries, causing the heart to work harder. Physical activity combined with a healthy diet and managing stress can help seniors maintain healthy hearts as they age.

To support staying active, Northern Hearts is offering their 19th annual “Walk with Doc” program that provides an opportunity for seniors to enjoy a social walk with local doctors to discuss their heart health and get some daily exercise. The walks are being held at Marina Park in Thunder Bay on Monday to Thursday night from 7:00-8:00 pm until June 30th. There are no fees to attend, and everyone is welcome regardless of their physical limitations and age. A complete schedule and list of doctors attending can be found on the Northern Hearts website www.northernhearts.org with updates and photos on the Northern Hearts Facebook page @NorthernHeartsThunderBay.

Staying connected was the second theme of Seniors’ Month as social isolation tends to be higher in older adults and is suggested by the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) to increase the chances for heart disease, stroke, and early death. The CMHA suggest that social connectiveness can help reduce blood pressure, heart rate and stress hormones. The “Walk with Doc” program provides an opportunity for social connection where groups of individuals can walk and talk together in a leisurely social atmosphere around the waterfront. The need for social connection is considered even more beneficial today as the constraints from lock-down have impacted the isolation of individuals in the community, especially seniors.

Staying safe was the third theme for Seniors’ Month and the Ontario Government is encouraging seniors to get information on vaccines, community supports and protection from financial scams and fraud. Northern Hearts is supporting seniors staying safe by following Ministry of Health guidelines for COVID 19 during its Walk with Doc as well as offering a range of community resources on each night of the walk to share information on how their services can support individuals and seniors in our community.

If you would like further information on the Walk with Doc program please contact Kayla Waddington, Program Coordinator for Northern Hearts at kcwaddin@lakeheadu.ca

For further information on Seniors’ Month in Ontario visit: https://www.ontario.ca/page/celebrating-seniors-ontario

Submitted by: Bryan MacKay, Board Member, Northern Hearts