By Darren Lum
Published Feb. 12 2019
Bob Stinson has been the face of the local CARP chapter as its president since he started it with Dani Stahl in 2012. His optimism and vision were cornerstones for starting chapter 54 representing members in Haliburton County and surrounding area. CARP is a national advocacy group serving the needs of people age 50 or older.
At 85 it was time for the president of chapter 54 to step down and reduce his duties making way for a new method of leadership which could be a model for other CARP chapters across Canada to emulate.
Instead of replacing Stinson with another president the chapter has decided to divide the presidential duties up and lead by committee. Each monthly meeting will be headed by a different member who will act as president to determine things such as the meeting’s agenda. This has never been done before within CARP and could be used as a model for other chapters with similar concerns related to aging board members.
Setting an example for other chapters is an important step Stinson said.
“It means a lot if the fact that it will help keep the chapters working together. When we started there were over 50 chapters and we were chapter 54 so there were a few chapters ahead of us” he said.
Among the challenges he faces at his age are changes with his vision. It's posed an issue reading. He shows a book with larger print and said he can no longer read the newspaper.
The chapter’s vice-president Neil Whent is unable to take over.
The national office he said provides the local chapter with money from the royalties earned by the shared revenue of membership dues.
Much of the success for the chapter he said is owed to this financial and collaborative support by CARP and to dedicated people such as founding members Peter Minaki who was also vice-president and Frank Thom.
Both have since passed but their legacy lives on with the local chapter which has grown since it launched with more than 200 members close to seven years ago. Now there are more than 700 which includes people in Bancroft and Coboconk. CARP has 300000 members across Canada.
This compares favourably to the other 25 chapters across Canada representing regions in Alberta Newfoundland British Columbia Nova Scotia Saskatchewan and Ontario. Stinson said there are really 16 chapters that are active.
Stinson said the past two years CARP has been clearer about expectations of chapters.
He said CARP wants all the chapters to be active and engaged with its communities working on efforts to advocate for seniors and not just exist in name.
Stinson said the chapter provides members with updates about what is happening at the local and national level with its online newsletter.
Among the highlights of his presidency he said was getting Moses Znaimer to come up to the Highlands for the annual general meeting to be a guest speaker several years ago.
Haliburton County has one of the highest per capita senior populations in Canada he said.
According to the Canadian Census 2016 the county has more than double the percentage of seniors aged 65 and over compared to the province.
“We've got an organization whose purpose is to advocate on behalf of seniors. We try to push for things that we think are valuable to seniors … We try to bring information to meetings that will be … good information” he said.
To Stinson it just made sense to establish a chapter here.
Before he started the local CARP chapter Stinson suffered from a stroke.
During his recovery his wife who was concerned with his mental faculties told him to get involved in the community specifically with the Aging Well Committee of Haliburton County.
He was frustrated with the fact there wasn't a mailing list or another method to contact people. So Stinson learned about how having a local CARP chapter could resolve this issue while looking at an issue of Zoomer Magazine. The magazine is published nine times a year for CARP members.
He asked the committee if they would be open to getting turned into a CARP chapter. They didn't agree and encouraged him to start the local chapter.
When he moved forward with the idea CARP didn't believe the Highlands could sustain a chapter.
There were references to how the Highlands doesn't really have much of any large centres of concentrated population. He remembers Anthony Quinn director community development at CARP telling him ”I don’t see how it will work.”
“That’s exactly why it’s got to work” he told him. “These people are isolated. They’re so far apart … they can’t go to a community centre and so on. It’s not easy but it’s necessary. They really need it” he said. “Because we’re weird.”
A year after the chapter’s launch Stinson was redeemed when he accepted a CARP award in Toronto for having the fastest growing chapter in Canada.
CARP’s website states that it is active in its advocacy efforts partnering with stakeholders to make senior lives better. This includes the FADOQ in Quebec and the International Federation on Aging. They partner with major research centres such as National Initiative for Care of the Elderly and the CIHR Institute of Aging and Age-well.
CARP also called for an inquiry into the safety and staffing in long-term care homes following the conviction of nurse Elizabeth Wettlaufer on eight counts of first degree murder. As of March 1 2018 door-to-door sales are banned in Ontario after the Etobicoke chapter worked with their local MPP. Back in 2017 CARP declared victory when Ontario agreed to offer free high-dose influenza vaccine for adults older than 65. The vaccine offer started in the fall of 2018.
Besides what CARP does on a national level the local chapter has been active.
It works with the Aging Well Committee. It offers information sessions featuring guest speakers such as Dr. Norm Bottum who led a talk about cannabis. This particular talk was timely given just before the legalization of the drug in Canada. The chapter is moving toward opening up a technology education session similar to Cyber Seniors.
Several months ago the chapter was invited by Haliburton Highlands Secondary School teacher Phil Dulong to learn from his students how to use mobile phones tablets and laptops.
Affordable housing for seniors is an issue here. The local chapter has been encouraging seniors to see alternatives such as the co-shared living concept being offered by Solterra which has a site located on Hilltop Road.
There is a common misconception about CARP that it is only for seniors Stinson said.
The organization is open to people of all ages. Before his daughter moved to North Bay she was an active member serving on the board with him.
Before she joined he challenged her: “If you’re concerned with about what’s happening with your mother and I you should be on CARP because that’s what we’re working for. There is a reason for young people to be involved. They’re not usually but they should be” he said.