SPARK A CONNECTION learning event focuses on social isolation

SPARK A Connection, a day-long event that focuses on the impact of social isolation on individuals and communities, will be held on Sept. 17. Over 100 participants from community organizations and other stakeholders who support vulnerable populations at risk of social isolation in the Richmond County/Strait area, Guysborough County and Antigonish Town and County will connect virtually via Zoom as well as in small groups adhering to public health physical distancing directives.

“We are pleased to be offering this event, especially at a time when social isolation and loneliness are so relevant,” said Kristel Fleuren-Hunter, Antigonish Town and County Community Health Board. “Research shows that the health risks of social isolation and loneliness are similar to those associated with smoking and obesity. In addition, social connectedness and social support are key factors in the promotion of good mental health, with social isolation and loneliness being closely linked to depression.” Social isolation is even more prevalent due to geographical realities of rural Nova Scotia, limited transportation options, structural and cultural factors. The strong association between social isolation and poorer health outcomes emphasizes the importance of a collaborative response and has been identified as one of the priorities of the Guysborough, Strait Richmond, and Antigonish Town and County community health boards (CHBs).

The event will feature local initiatives and attendees will hear directly from community members who have benefited from programming aimed at reducing social isolation. Facilitated discussions will provide an opportunity for participants to share best practices and explore ways to move forward and alleviate social isolation in their communities. Keynote speakers Dr. Christina Victor, Professor of Gerontology at Brunel University, and Dr. Mary Patricia Sullivan, Professor of Social Work at Nipissing University, will provide an overview of the health risks associated with social isolation with particular attention to older adults. Many of the communities in the CHBs’ catchment areas have a significant senior population of residents over 55 years old, Richmond County – 46 per cent, Guysborough County- 55 per cent, Port Hawkesbury – 38 per cent and Antigonish Town and County- 42 per cent. Both speakers are available for questions from the media and their biographies with contact information are attached.

SPARK A Connection is a partnership between Pictou-Antigonish Regional Library, the Guysborough, Strait Richmond, and Antigonish Town and County CHBs, and health promotion staff both in public health and mental health and addictions with Nova Scotia Health. Funding was provided by Nova Scotia Department of Seniors, Age Friendly Communities Program and community health boards.

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Media Contacts:

Mary Desmond, Guysborough Community Health Board
Email: handonmom@hotmail.ca

Michele Mac Phee, Strait Richmond Community Health Board
Email: seniorsafetycoordinator.dkmchc@gmail.com
Kristel Fleuren-Hunter, Antigonish Town and County Community Health Board
kfhunter@parl.ns.ca

Keynote Speakers:

Christina R. Victor
Professor of Gerontology and Public Health, Brunel University London
Phone: +44 (0)1895 268730
Email: Christina.Victor@brunel.ac.uk

Mary Pat Sullivan,
Professor of Social Work and Social Gerontology, Nipissing University
Phone: (705) 474 3450 Ext 4496
Email: maryps@nipissingu.ca