Following Up on the ‘Time of Our Lives’ Expo: ‘It’s good to know what’s out there’
July 2017 Committee Report
In November 2016, Home4Good Bayfield hosted an information fair called the ‘Time of Our Lives’ Expo: Products and Services for Vintage Adults for which we received financial support through a seniors’ community grant from the Government of Ontario. The all-day event featured 22 exhibits from area service providers from both the for-profit and not-for-profit sectors (including a registered massage therapist, a foot-care specialist who will make house calls, representatives from area housing organizations for seniors, and a travel company specializing in trips for older adults). In addition, there were presentations throughout the day ranging from how to downsize your home (from a professional organizing service), demonstrations from several exercise groups (including Tai Chi, urban pole walking), entertainment by the local Ukulele society, and a question-and-answer session about the changing role of estate executors. Prizes donated by exhibitors were drawn throughout the day.
Our goal in hosting the event was to build community capacity in the Bayfield area by enabling service providers, volunteers and area seniors and their caregivers to meet one another, exchange information, and learn about the supports available to assist older area residents to age in place successfully. Nearly 200 hundred people took part, including the presenters, people staffing the exhibits, 21 volunteers, and 120 attendees (many of whom, much to our surprise, stayed the entire day!)
The immediate feedback we received from both attendees and exhibitors was extremely positive. Attendees were given a ballot form for draw prizes when they first arrived at the Expo on which we asked, ‘why did you come to the Expo today?’ The predominant reason given for attending was to obtain information and find out more about what’s going on and available in the village. As people were leaving, they were asked to complete a brief feedback form. Their comments were complimentary, indicating that the event was very informative, well organized and had a ‘fun’ and ‘friendly’ atmosphere. Attendees indicated that they learned a lot about available services, both in terms of clarifying the roles of certain providers and increasing awareness of services that exist in the area.
Seven months following the Expo we undertook an additional follow-up survey to explore whether the connections made by participants who attended the event have had any lasting impact. This brief report is a summary of what we learned from the more than 50 participants who took part in the follow-up.
A Successful Event
Responses to the follow-up survey largely reiterate the feedback we received immediately after the Expo, i.e., both attendees and exhibitors described the event as successful, informative, useful and fun. Indeed, one of the exhibitors told us that she ‘loved’ the Expo and that it was the best of the health information fairs that she’s ever attended. Another described it as ‘wonderful’ and ‘very well run’. The attendees were similarly complimentary, with some describing the day as ‘fabulous’ and ‘well organized’. One woman said, ‘It didn’t seem like a seniors ‘do’. It was really uplifting and it was bright .. you didn’t feel bad about being an older person – it made you feel good’.
Useful Connections, Inspiring Change
From the point of view of some exhibitors, it may be difficult to tell whether the Expo has had any effect on their business or service. As one representative from a seniors’ housing organization told us, ‘although there are probably people who attended the Expo that have visited [our facility] these things involve a long process of decision-making’. However, a representative of a community service organization said that the exposure provided to her agency by participating in the Expo was useful even if she can’t be sure that attending the event itself would have resulted in people taking up service because, as she explained, ‘we know that people have to hear and see about programs and services usually MANY times before they engage’. On the other hand, some exhibitors did report an immediate impact, noting that people who attended the Expo have followed up with them to ask for more information about products and services, some of whom have become clients of their agencies. Also, the exhibitors noted that they themselves made useful connections with other service providers by networking at the event in what one described as ‘a really helpful way’.
Some of the attendees indicated that what they learned at the Expo inspired them to take action. For instance, after hearing the presentation by a professional organizer speak about downsizing and decluttering, one woman said she was inspired to clean out her basement, ‘the decluttering seminar sparked me to begin the jobs’. Others said they followed up with financial advisers after hearing the presentation on estate planning. Another reported making an appointment with a hearing clinic and others said they signed up for a health management program offered by one of the agencies. One woman said that as a result of winning a door prize at the Expo she’s begun taking Tai Chi classes.
Storing Away Useful Information for the Future
Although a small number of attendees didn’t find the information provided at the Expo to be relevant because they are ‘too young for it’, a frequently repeated theme in the attendees’ responses is that while they may not need information right now, they feel, as a result of the Expo and their exposure to Home4Good that they know where to go when they do need it. In a poignant commentary, one woman said, ‘I’m trying to be young at heart but I know we need to get ready for changes. … I feel confident that we can ask through your group (Home4Good) and if you don’t know you’ll help us find out’. Similarly, another woman explained, ‘it was great to see what’s available, all in one place. Good to know for when you might need it later – where to go. It’s reassuring. Home4Good does great work.’ Several respondents were aware of Home4Good’s Monday afternoon Seniors Info Hub at the public library and said they plan to use it to find specific information, particularly to find out about local home-help related services.
Reinforcing the Need for Connecting Information
The take-away message from the follow-up survey is that as residents learn more about what’s available, they become part of the community’s collective ‘information bank’ and are able to not only take action on their own behalf but, when it’s needed, pass on what they know to others. Home4Good is well positioned to provide opportunities for area residents to inform themselves about services, programs, and products that are relevant to successful aging-in-place. It is clear from the experience with the Expo that making informing events ‘fun’ and welcoming is an essential component of success and enhances Home4Good’s reputation as a well-regarded, credible partner in the network of community resources available to Bayfield and area residents.