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Just ask Angie: Preventing falls and fires for older adults

Trivia format for learning safety lessons
Just Ask Angie file
Angie Theilmann is a information and referral specialist at the Sunshine Coast Resource Centre. She has a biweekly column with the Coast Reporter.

Q: What public education programs are out there to keep seniors safe?  

A: After a hiatus during peak COVID, a public outreach program centred on fire and fall prevention for older adults called “Remembering When” is back. It’s a program that is social, fun, and most importantly, can help save lives and prevent injury. If you are an older adult, or have friends or family who are, you’ll want to find a way to connect with this program.  

Picture life-saving information being presented in a trivia night format, with teams, competition, and friendly and knowledgeable folks from your local fire department on hand to answer your questions. And it’s free! Did I mention there were prizes? 

The content for the “Remembering When” program was designed by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). Statistics on that website say that at age 65, older adults are twice as likely to be killed or injured by fires compared to the population at large. By age 75, that risk increases to three times that of the general population — and to four times by age 85. The reason the sessions incorporate fire and fall-prevention is because these are two huge reasons for emergency phone calls to the fire departments from older adults. 

Fire departments across North America steward the program in their various communities. Here on the Coast, Greig Soohen is our own liaison and has been for some time. As a retired 24-year volunteer of the Gibsons and District Volunteer Fire Department (GDVFD), Soohen knows his stuff. And he cares deeply about the program’s potential to keep seniors safe. As a senior himself, he also knows the format of the sessions make them into a real social event. As a senior himself, he reminds me that “seniors just love prizes.” 

“Sessions are done with an interactive team approach. The more the merrier,” says Soohen, though small groups are still welcome. He says the program is primarily aimed at those seniors living independently, which of course make up a huge population of the Coast. That said, the program is for everyone. Soohen just wrapped up a presentation for a large group at Christenson Village led by Chris Faccin, fire prevention officer with GDVFD.  

The 1.5 hour sessions are full of simple and effective tips and tricks for keeping older adults of various ages safe. Like how to apply the age-old stop-drop-and-roll system, when there are mobility issues to contend with, like reliance on a walker, a scooter or when getting up off the ground is just not as easy as it used to be. Or, learn about practical things to prevent kitchen fires, like keeping a lid to a pot handy, or carrying a timer around when setting something on the stove. The whole program is based on 16 key messages: eight around fire prevention and eight aimed at fall prevention.  

With the support of your local fire departments, Soohen is in the process of organizing presentations with seniors’ groups and organizations up and down the Coast. These can be for neighbourhood groups, workplaces offering services for seniors (think healthcare), your strata (think strata AGM guest speakers…), any type of seniors-oriented community group, or club, or simply your social group! If you don’t have a venue to host, not to worry, Greig will find a way to make it happen. And you can book Greig year-round! It’s worth noting that there is content tailored to seniors of different ages.  

Coming up on April 28th at10 a.m., Soohen and Faccin will be running a session at the Sechelt Seniors Centre (bring your best trivia minds!). It’s co-presented by the Sechelt Volunteer Fire Department. No need to register, you can just show up. To find out more, organize a session or your own, or to find out if there is one coming up near you up and down the Coast, contact Greig Soohen: 604-790-0778, [email protected]. You can also contact him if you’re interested in donating any prizes for use during the events! 

All the information for the “Remembering When” program is available, downloadable and printable on the NFPA website: .  Angie Theilmann is an information and referral specialist at the Sunshine Coast Resource Centre, your community information hub. The Resource Centre is open Monday to Thursday 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Appointments are recommended to be sure we are available to help you. Note: on some days, we can book clients after 2 p.m. Contact us: [email protected] or 604-885-4088.