New executive director charting new course at CBAC

Egbert Gaye

A year ago as Katrina Nurse prepared to take the helm of the Council for Black Aging Community of Montreal (CBAC) there was some trepidation for the 30-something-year-old, unsure of what to expect in the service of an organization of elderly Montrealers. After all, much of her work experience was at the other end of the life-cycle spectrum as director of a daycare.
Much to her surprise, not only was the transition smooth, but also the experience so far has been mutually enriching for her and for the organization.
“Personally, everyday I benefit in some way from interacting with these Black seniors,” she told the CONTACT in an interview at the offices of the CBAC, situated on Newman Blvd. in LaSalle.
“We talk about everything: from children, grandchildren, social-media and whatever life throws at us. Also for them it’s great because they are curious about a lot of things… I think the lesson for me is that learning still happens everyday, even for seniors.”
So a year into it, Nurse is particularly excited about the growth taking place all around the organization, particularly in the number of active members.
“Today, we have close to one hundred and thirty something active members, many of whom are participating and benefiting from our programs and activities.”
She added that programs such as nutrition, zumba, Soca fitt/weight training, line-dancing, art, hand crafts, intergenerational programs as well as computer and technology classes and the choir are offered at different times during the week to accommodate seniors of different ages, working and retired.
Just as important, she says, is the social connection that the CBAC affords members.
“We’ve to admit that many of them are fearful of change, just as they ‘re suspicious of technology so the hope is that the programs and conversations that take place at the council helps to get them out of that box,” says Nurse who is a graduate of Concordia University’s Family Life Education department.
She is also the co-founder of She Did That Prom, a program that assists deserving high-school graduates celebrate their prom night in style and glamour. As well, she spent much of her college and university years as a tutor of Math, English and French on the West Island.
Nurse says she has benefitted immensely from the assistance provided by the president of the Council and the board of directors, who have supported all of her initiatives to take the CBAC to the next level. And she’s counting on their continued support as she pushes toward the future.
“We have to continue to attract new and younger members to keep the organization vibrant,” she says.
She points to the upcoming CBAC conference (Health and Wellness: Beating The Odds) on October 26th at the Nouvel Hotel Downtown as an opportunity for seniors, their relatives and the community to be part of that growing process.
“It’s not just for the elderly,” she says. “Because most of us know someone who is aging and in need of support so it’s an opportunity for families and support groups and others to benefit from the latest information on health, wellness and well-being.”
One of the highlights of the conference will be an interactive workshop on hepatitis, lead by an expert. Also, there will be a sexologist present to guide seniors on issues of body image and wellness, as a representative of a reputable home-care service to help with navigating what will be an important decision in their future. As well, a Concordia University professor will speak on leisure and isolation and their impact on seniors.
Nurse reiterated the importance of the aging community and those connected with seniors to make all efforts to attend this conference and access the range of information that will be made available to them.
Looking forward, she says in her capacity as executive director of the only association serving Black seniors, she is committed to empowering them by changing the negative messages that have been part of their reality.
“Messages such as “your time is up” and “you’ve already lived your life” can be very discouraging. I want to reinforce in them that their age does not define who or what they are.”
For information on the conference and the CBAC, check them out at 7401 Blvd Newman, Suite 6, LaSalle, Que. or at 514-935-4951, counb@bellnet.ca or www.cbacm.org