Seniors using electronic devices

Rural seniors learn to take charge of their health

The Southern Labrador Development Association (SLDA) is a community organization that plays a lead role in development activities in the Labrador Straits region. Aimee Buckle is the Senior Services Officer, and her role is to work with seniors in Labrador and help them with applications, host information sessions, and plan community events.

SLDA recently hosted an ABC Health Matters workshop through the Activate Learning program. Activate Learning is a literacy program focused on supporting and empowering the unique population of Newfoundland and Labrador. The program aims to improve the number of training opportunities for adult learners, employees and workplaces in the areas of employability and life skills, health literacy, and financial literacy.

The Take Charge of Your Health workshop was facilitated by ABC Life Literacy Canada and held in person at SLDA’s office in Forteau. Buckle promoted the workshop through all their 50+ adult clubs and says there was a lot of interest.

“The seniors that attended were very happy with the session” says Buckle. “A lot of the times among the 50+ groups, they don’t talk about health concerns in depth with one another. But after the workshop, the attendees felt that they were better advocates for their own health.”

Buckle says that they discussed not just physical health, but also mental health, which is very topical. She says the discussion helped reduce some of the stigma around mental health and they talked about how there is nothing to be ashamed of if you have mental health issues.

Buckle says the topic of health literacy is extremely important in such a small community, where there is only one doctor and three nurses at a very small health centre that serves everyone within a 300-kilometre radius.

“In smaller communities it’s really important to be an advocate for your own health because sometimes doctors might dismiss things,” says Buckle. “Our health centre offers minimal procedures and has limited equipment. We don’t have an MRI or a CT scan or even an ultrasound available, so it’s important for you to push for a referral for these services if you feel that something is off with your body.”

In a region where a wait list for a CT scan might be two years long, Buckle says advocating for one’s health is a vital skill, especially for seniors.

“If you’re not an advocate for your own health, then who will be? Who will stand up and get you the services you need?”

To learn more about ABC Health Matters and other workshops offered through the Activate Learning program, visit