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Archive for July 2018

Age-friendly communities involve more than courtesy

As I start creeping closer and closer to being able to qualify for seniors’ discounts, discussions about creating age-friendly communities attract my attention and interest in what it means to me and where I live. Like many people, I also have friends and family members who are struggling with dementia and looking for ways to stay at home with their families. With this in mind, it’s reassuring to hear that there is a growing awareness of the need to create age-friendly communities and a wide range of programs and services that are already in place to help support older citizens.

I first became aware of the need for better planning and programs to help enable aging residents who want to stay in their homes a few years ago when my cousin, Yvonne Poulin, co-authored a book – Aging Safely in Your Home – that provides a simple yet comprehensive guide for seniors and the people who care about them. My cousin told me how there are ways to assess what personal and housing adaptations may be required to age safely in your home, and when it might be a better choice to relocate. Up until then, I hadn’t given a lot of thought to what it must be like to find it difficult to complete simple household tasks or even move safely around your home.

What I learned as I did the interviews and research for this edition of Exchange is that there are programs and planning underway that take the same approach on a community basis – creating an environment that is safe and welcoming for all ages and abilities. I was also surprised to learn that local governments don’t need to be the leader in these initiatives – they just need to be part of a partnership that also involves the provincial government, community-based seniors’ services and other province-wide organizations like BC Healthy Communities and the United Way.

In Creating Age-Friendly Communities from the Ground Up, it was amazing to see the work that has been done in recent years to take a fragmented sector of community service providers and pull them together into a more cohesive network that collaborates and shares resources and expertise to benefit communities across the province. There is a stunning amount of work being done to support these community-based services as well as local governments who are pursuing age-friendly policies, plans and initiatives. As someone who is edging closer to some of those demographic markers for seniors, I’m happy to see this trend to improve everything from the built environment to social programs to make it easier to live in and enjoy the community as we age.

It was also helpful to hear from two local governments who have been recognized for their work in creating age-friendly communities. In Becoming Age Friendly: Case Studieswe learn how they have connected with their local seniors and community organizations to create programs and plans for seniors in their community. Because seniors are involved at the earlier stages and are consulted not just on the barriers or other concerns but also on viable solutions to address their needs, the resulting plans and recommendations have added weight when presented to Councils. It’s also nice to see a recognition that seniors have a lot of value to bring to the table, and we need to find ways to help them become more integrated into decisions that affect them.