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Active Aging in Manitoba: An Interview with Executive Director, Linda Brown

Targeting Isolation in Manitoba (TIMA) interviewed Linda Brown, Executive Director, Active Aging in Manitoba (AAIM), about what AAIM does and what information she would like to share about AAIM's programming for older adults. Here is what we talked about...

TIMA: Please introduce yourself and tell me about your organization and your role within the organization.

Linda Brown, AAIM: My name is Linda Brown, I am the Executive Director of AAIM and I have been part of the Aging Well Together Coalition for the past two and a half years. In a previous role at AAIM I was the Master Trainer for all our volunteer Peer Leaders who lead our exercise classes around the province.

AAIM's mandate is to provide active aging opportunities for older Manitobans. The reason that physical activity is so important is not only for physical health, but also how it can affect a person’s mental health as well as their ability to socialize and not be isolated. AAIM's goal is to help people lead really healthy lives as they age and help them remain independent.

"The reason that physical activity is so important is not only for physical health, but also how it can affect a person’s mental health as well as their ability to socialize and not be isolated."

TIMA: If someone were to chat with you over coffee, what would you want them to know about AAIM?

Linda Brown, AAIM: I would want them to know what AAIM's mandate is, how we can help facilitate healthy aging as people age, and that age shouldn't be a barrier to people being active. Every little bit of activity counts! There may be an activity that a person wants to do that may be out of their level of abilities at the moment, so we can modify that activity for them. It is all about moving more, sitting less and keeping active. We should all try and meet the Canadian Guidelines of 150 minutes of activity per week, which can be spread out between 5 or even 7 days.

"Every little bit of activity counts!"

TIMA: Could you describe what a Peer Leader is? What should people know about Peer Leaders?

Linda Brown, AAIM: Peer Leaders are trained to lead our Steppin’ Up with Confidence program. Typically they live in a community where there is a group of older adults who want to be more active. The Steppin' Up with Confidence program itself is designed to focus on functional fitness, balance, strength, and cardiovascular fitness.

I have converted the Peer Leader training to be virtual, which is run over 3 session. After the 3 sessions I then come and do an in-person evaluation before Peer Leaders go out and teach in the community.

After the Peer Leaders have been trained we also provide a lot of ongoing support. There is a monthly newsletter where I do an exercise of the month, reviewing technique and safety precautions.

TIMA: What other programs does AAIM have?

Linda Brown, AAIM: We have our community outreach which includes the Healthy Living Presentations series where we cover a wide range of topics about healthy aging. We also have the Peer Connect Program which we started about a year ago. This is a program where we match a Peer Leader up with someone in the community who reached out to AAIM about being more active and wanted a buddy to do that.

We also have the Manitoba 55+ Games, which is a huge part of AAIM. This past year there were 940 athletes and 250 volunteers and it was hosted in Selkirk. We also have the virtual games where people can register and they can do any activity they want to do in that month. All they have to do is record their activity and send that information in and then get their names entered for prizes. We have people from all over the Province doing all different kinds of activities, from golf, to horseback riding to playing crib outside.

TIMA: Is there anything else you would like to add?

Linda Brown, AAIM: I think as far as activities go for older adults, walking is probably one of the best. When we talk to people who have not been active for years, walking is an activity we recommend. Once your balance is a bit better, you become a bit stronger and build up your cardiovascular endurance then you can try other activities. I would recommend to always start out gradually, 10 minutes is a great start and then slowly build it up. A lot of times people stop exercising because they do too much at the beginning and are really sore and tired.

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