The Pingelly Somerset Alliance opened its seniors expo to a packed Pingelly Recreation and Cultural Centre on Thursday, March 30. The two-day expo examined issues about ageing and older people that are unique to regional areas. “Small rural communities is what it’s about,” Staying in Place project officer and former Liberal minister Helen Morton said. “The issue is that the normal models of aged care only work in big regional or metropolitan areas, so what we’ve come up with is an alternative that does work in small regional communities, and it’s been shown to work in about 14 communities across Australia.” Representatives from local government, community resource centres and the WA Country Health Service were at the expo. It also featured Somerset Alliance’s Staying in Place project, which has been rolled out across Wandering, Wickepin, Cuballing and Pingelly. The initiative aims to keep older people in their rural communities by providing a grassroots approach to support and inclusion. Community aged care coordinator Lesley Bryce from Bell in Queensland was a special guest. “We designed our model and at the same time Lesley designed almost an identical program,” Ms Morton said. “It’s so similar you could say they are the same.” Somerset Alliance chairman David Freebairn opened the expo with a brief introduction about Staying in Place. “I’m a Pingelly person,” Mr Freebairn said. “I want to stay here, grow old here and, the way things are heading, die here.” After a welcome to country by Malcolm Jetta and Malcolm Jetta Snr, Nationals MLA Mia Davies officially opened the expo. “We have to do things differently to look after our towns and our people because there simply aren’t that many of us, and when governments, either State or Commonwealth, make rules and regulations and set policy, they are rarely thinking about communities the size of Pingelly, not because they’re thoughtless or they don’t care but because we are an outlier,” she said.