Why An Age Friendly City?
In 2006, the World Health Organization decided cities across the world should work towards becoming age-friendly. A few years ago, the Canadian Government got on board and funded eleven communities across Canada to find ways to improve the lives of seniors. Nanaimo was one of those cities. The BC government followed up by accrediting cities in BC who proved they were working towards becoming Age-friendly.
Nanaimo Seniors Task Force Role
The Nanaimo Seniors Task Force (NSTF) undertook the challenge to produce a document that would be the foundation for planning to make Nanaimo Age-friendly and achieve accreditation. NSTF reviewed data accumulated by the Seniors Connect Project, in 2017, that surveyed over 500 residents through the annual Seniors Health and Wellness event as well as surveys completed on-line and in meeting with residents at shopping centres. The ideas and issues documented were sorted by eight areas of interest as identified by WHO. Food was added as a ninth area by the NSTF. Objectives were formed for each area, identifying their impact and likelihood of being achieved over the next few years. NSTF also identified potential sponsors for each objective as well as stakeholders.
Currently, NSTF is looking forward to having the Plan adopted by the new city council. In 2017, Nanaimo City Council already proclaimed its desire to be Age-friendly. Work that has been undertaken by the Nanaimo Seniors Task Force under the Seniors Connect project of which the City of Nanaimo is a partner, has produced a draft Age Friendly City Plan that we are looking to have approved by the City of Nanaimo, the new City Council and community stakeholders and sponsors.
In March 2019, we hope to receive accreditation from the BC Government as being Age-friendly after review of our application and approved Nanaimo Age Friendly City Plan. But that is the start, not the end, of the process. NSTF is looking to making the Age Friendly Plan a vital part of Nanaimo’s future planning process.
What Can Stakeholders Do?
NSTF committee members will be visiting many groups in the city to explain the Plan and what we hope to achieve. We are looking forward to getting as many stakeholders, sponsors and citizens of Nanaimo, working together to achieve the Plan’s objectives within each area. By doing so, we will be alleviating one of the top concerns for seniors as they age: social isolation.
Nanaimo Age Friendly City Overview (Draft Plan)
Below is a brief summary of the nine areas and how seniors can be positively impacted through the objectives identified:
- Outdoor Spaces & Public Buildings: Refers to the ability of seniors to get around easily and safely in the community.
- Transportation: Takes into consideration convenience, safety, affordability and timeliness with the goal of enabling older persons to go where they need or want to when they need or want to.
- Housing: Older residents need to have access to housing that is safe and affordable and in a neighbourhood context that minimizes isolation.
- Social Participation: Strives for older persons’ full participation in the recreational, cultural and social life in the community.
- Health & Community Services: Access to health care should be affordable, appropriate and properly communicated.
- Respect & Social Inclusion: Public services, commercial enterprises and media should take into account the ability of older persons to navigate the robot age by providing person to person communication to help seniors’ understanding.
- Civic Participation: Older persons need to be included in community decision making. They have a vast range of skills and experience that can contribute to the community through both paid and volunteer work.
- Communication & Information: Refers to the availability, appropriate design and delivery of information in a way that ensures awareness of the full range of programs and services in the community for seniors.
- Food Security & Healthy Eating: Seniors should have access to safe, nutritious and culturally accepted food to meet dietary needs and preferences for an active and healthy life.
According to the 2016 Census, Nanaimo has 23,000 residents over 65 representing 23% of the population and this number is climbing. It is time we reverse the growing isolation seniors feel, whether it is because of health, lack of sufficient finances, or no longer being able to drive, and re-integrate seniors into every aspect of our community. An age-friendly community benefits more than just older adults. An age-friendly city is also one that is friendly to children, parents and those with mobility challenges.
NSTF is asking for your support, on an individual basis, as well as the group you are a part of, to move the thought process of our community to include the best means so that all older persons can actively participate in the community. Whether it be providing senior housing that is linked to the neighborhood through available public transportation on that street and medical services nearby, or by providing a park bench or toilet in a park that seniors frequent, among many examples, we can improve the enjoyment of seniors regardless of their personal circumstances.