The Nanaimo Seniors Task Force, a volunteer seniors advocacy group created a short survey to find out how the mayoral and councillor candidates felt about issues directly related to seniors in Nanaimo.
In alphabetical order the responses were
1) How would you propose that Nanaimo Council identify, prioritize and act upon seniors’ needs?
Don Hubbard: I would propose and support a Seniors Advisory group to interact with staff and advise to Council.
Leonard Krog: I anticipate that our new Council will want, as a priority, to review the composition and mandate of its Advisory Committees. There seems to be agreement that current committees are not serving Council well and that their mandates have become unclear and, hence, their work not as effective as it should be. So I am intrigued by the work that you have done, and some of the recommendations that you have made. Where the City can act to make things easier for seniors, I think it should. Where other jurisdictions are involved (eg RDN for transit matters, or the Province) the City’s role is to advocate for improvements.
Don Bonner: I will suggest that we setup a committee made up of a few members of council, stakeholders and members of the public that reports to council on seniors needs with recommendations on action.
Tyler Brown: For Nanaimo Council to identify, prioritize and act upon seniors’ needs, I would propose that City Council work with groups like the Seniors Task Force, Island Health and other appropriate parties to determine if an official Seniors Advisory Committee should be established at the City of Nanaimo, that includes cross integrations with other relevant committees such as the Community Planning Committee, etc. This would potentially provide an on-going governance forum to ensure the needs of seniors are reflected in City governance. Further, the Nanaimo Age Friendly City Plan should be fully adopted as planning document and implementation schedules for each objective in the document should be developed.
Erin Hemmens: The Nanaimo Age Friendly City Plan lays out clear priorities to address the needs of seniors in our community. I believe it is the role of council to listen to the expertise available via groups such as the Seniors Task Force, and work towards implementing improvements to our services and infrastructure which support this growing population. A number of improvements outlined in the Age Friendly Plan, such as enhanced crosswalk safety and ensuring that commissions, committees and Task Forces include senior participants, fall directly within the role of local government and should be accounted for in budgeting and inclusive policy. For addressing the identified needs which fall outside of the city’s direct jurisdiction, such as transportation or improvements to social service provision, the city can act as an advocacy body and conduit of information. In all cases, the city should leverage the expertise and experiences of both residents and senior specific service organizations to ensure that the needs of this growing population remain at the forefront of decision making.
Jeet Manhas: The task force has already identified and gathered plenty of information and I will certainly support that the recommendations to be adopted by the Council.
Zeni Maartman: There is a Nanaimo Age Friendly Plan that will be introduced to the new Council. The experts and stakeholders in our community could advise us on identifying the gaps where there is the most urgency, and initiatives that we can implement in a timely manner. EG Educate older adults on the SAFER program that offers rent subsidies to seniors, improving communication and information through Senior’s Connect.
Darcy Olsen: The Nanaimo Age Friendly City plan has identified 23,000 residents over the age of 65. This is 23% of our population and a demographic we can expect to rise over the years to come. We will need to ensure we adopt the plan for the increase in our senior population. Our seniors are the base of our communities as they are our history, present and community contributors. I have spoken out often about the importance of ensuring: -we have accessible public spaces -ensuring handi-dart is a convenient, service providing swift service and not leaving users waiting for hours to be picked up after an event -That all ages have volunteer places on our community committees -Affordable housing options -We work with the province for funding for city social experiences My 14-year-old daughter has benefited from after-school programs when she was in elementary school with seniors. She learned important skills like how to sew, knit, and food preparation. Since she has been in high school, she is the first to raise her hand to volunteer for senior teas, lunches and visits through her high school leadership program.
Conrad Peach: We should identify, prioritize and act upon seniors needs based on the demand, accessibility is one priority I know is very important to our seniors community and for years accessibility has been a huge issue for Nanaimo, safety is always a concern along with social isolation.
Noah Routley: Start the term with a transparent and open community engagement. And by inviting all seniors, groups etc to a public session, early within the term and listen to their specific needs. From there it is important to act on seniors needs as our population is aging and we will need to secure seniors affordable housing and plan for this change in demographics.
Kevin Storrie: I have already proposed a council committee for seniors. I will make a motion if elected.
Ian Thorpe: For Nanaimo City Council to identify, prioritize, and act upon seniors’ needs, there must be good channels of communication between the City and seniors’ advocacy group such as the Nanaimo Seniors’ Task Force. The City’s Strategic Plan is due to be updated next year, and the needs of seniors must be front and centre when our community values are determined. The present goals of social equity, cultural vitality, and active lifestyle all relate to seniors. I am very impressed with the Nanaimo Age Friendly City Plan which can be used as a guideline for identifying main issues and possible solutions. A consultation process should be in place to establish priorities, then action plans for implementation can be brought to Council for approval through the appropriate City department or committee.
Question 2: Nanaimo City Council has passed a resolution to make the city more Age-Friendly. What are your top three ideas to decrease social isolation among seniors?
Don Hubbard: Better transportation options. Coordination of seniors activities. Work with the seniors task force for out reach to seniors.
Leonard Krog:I am fortunate enough to be a senior citizen who is not yet facing challenges of
isolation. Therefore, I must admit that I cannot give you clear answers. It would
be much more intelligent of me to pick your collective brains and start to work
together to make some progress.
Don Bonner: Creating walkable neighbourhoods, looking at creating social housing for seniors that includes younger people with common areas in the building and continuing on with the Work of Seniors Connect.
Tyler Brown: Ensure we have age-friendly neighbourhoods so Seniors can age in place comfortable and in social contact with those around them. This includes general services, parks and recreational centres in close proximity. 2. Improve the effectiveness and efficiency of both conventional and custom transit services. This includes ensuring safe, comfortable and accessible bus stops. 3. Continued focus on developing recreational and cultural programming that is inclusive of Seniors. In additional, explore other creative options
Erin Hemmens: In my conversations with seniors, I have learned that inadequate transportation presents a significant barrier to seniors getting out and enjoying their community. Handy Dart Services require advanced booking and bus stops are often too far from homes to be walkable. To that end, I would like to explore alternative models to connect seniors to bus stops near their home. My second idea would be to ensure that Nanaimo seniors are well informed of programs and opportunities available to them by partnering with local service providers to create and distribute a monthly newsletter targeted directly to seniors. Isolation is not just a lack of contact, but a lack of communication and connection: a newsletter with the latest info, key dates and telephone numbers of services could go a long ways to connecting seniors to programming designed specifically for them. Lastly, I would like to explore a system, possibly involving high schoolers or other service related organizations, whereby seniors living on their own may register to receive call from another community member once every few days. As a coroner, I have witnessed the impact of isolation in seniors and have often wondered if outcomes would be different if our isolated elders could count on regular contact and check-ins with members of the community.
Jeet Manhas: My three ideas to decrease social isolation among seniors will be to have Senior Programs; where the Seniors can go and feel that they are valued citizens and important part of our society. I would also like to see more availability of HandyDarts for the Seniors so that they can go shopping or meet with their friend for some recreational activities. I would also like to see more in house help and care being provided for the Seniors that would like to stay home longer or are providing the care for their spouse.
Zeni Maartman: Advocate for local high schools to include multigenerational programs as part of volunteer curriculum. Create and distribute printed documents that list senior service providers, social proograms etc for those who do not use technology. Improve safety like our crosswalks near senior and community centers, making public spaces accessibl and safe.
Darcy Olsen: Nanaimo needs to make transit options more accessible for all members of our community. Our city needs to ensure we work with the province to co-ordinate funding for buddy drivers, so our seniors can get to the grocery store, make medical appointments, and see friends and family. As well we need to ensure there is affordable and free programs across and throughout Nanaimo to maintain healthy, social experiences.
Conrad Peach: Transit needs to be addressed, if we make our community easier to get around it encourages our seniors to get out in the community more, arts and culture to bring more entertainment and community events and finally safety, adjustments to law enforcement needs to be made to reflect the needs of Nanaimo’s growing population.
Noah Routley: Allow the use of space, without charge, within city meeting spaces for support of this resolution for seniors and also for non profit groups supporting this resolution. Listening to your needs early in the term of office. Support infrastructure for accessibility and ease of movement within community spaces as we are all going to age and need this infrastructure in the future.
Kevin Storrie: Support Seniors Connect visitation programs. Create new social functions through parks and recreation. Start an on call system with regional transit, similar to what Vancouver is doing.
Ian Thorpe: Social isolation is a serious concern among seniors, and should be a priority to address. One avenue will be through continued and increased City financial support for social inclusion programs such as the Seniors Connect and LEAP initiatives. Being a former board member of Harbour City Seniors, I know that they work with the City to provide excellent low-cost programming for seniors. This certainly deserves support. Secondly, we can reduce seniors’ isolation by working to make transportation in our city more user-friendly. This relates to sidewalks and safe crosswalks. Also, as a Regional District Board member I know that the RDN will be receptive to consultation with NSTF to look at changes to such things as bus routes, schedules, and the “Ride the Bus” program. My third main focus to reduce seniors’ isolation would be to enhance opportunities for volunteerism and employment. Volunteer Nanaimo and the Seniors Connect program need to be promoted so that seniors are aware of them and can gain self-worth by interacting with others and also serving the community.
Q3 – The Nanaimo Seniors Task Force is undertaking the task of advocating for seniors. If you were on this committee, what is the #1 thing you would want to target to improve seniors’ quality of life in Nanaimo?
Don Hubbard: Develop groups at the major seniors sites to assist those who are feeling alone and help bring them in. We also have many seniors in mobile homes and family homes who are isolated there needs to be a way to reach out to them also.
Leonard Krog: I would certainly put a high priority on transportation improvements, not only in
terms of public transit, but also improvements to roadways and sidewalks to
make getting around easier and safer.
The reduction of physical barriers to people movement provides for healthier
Don Bonner: Transportation. I think that is the number one reason for isolation.
Tyler Brown: Ensure that will build systems, processes and concrete actions into the City of Nanaimo’s culture to ensure Nanaimo becomes an Age-Friendly City.
Erin Hemmens: If I were on the Seniors Task Force I would direct my efforts towards decreasing the social isolation so many of our seniors face. Connection, conversation and friendship are vital for leading healthy, happy and fulfilling lives. Unfortunately however, through decreased mobility, loss of partners/family and declining health, many seniors miss out on opportunities which would connect them to community and increase their wellbeing. I would enter these conversations humbly and with a strong desire to learn from seniors in the community, as well as the individuals and organizations already working hard in this arena.
Jeet Manhas: My most important thing and number one priority will be how to tackle the Isolation for the Seniors. The seniors need to feel a sense of belonging to a community where there health, psychological and spiritual needs are met. There should be more Senior’s programs where they can cultivate their hobbies, share ideas and participate in organized recreation an don’t lose their cognitive abilities.
Zeni Maartman: Improve Transportation so it is more age friendly with accessibility, convenience and safety. Bus routing to fill needs near senior retirement homes, community centers. Have information available to meet the needs of those who do not use technology.
Darcy Olsen: Senior isolation is a concern. I have been out canvassing across Nanaimo and what I keep hearing is that Nanaimo is not very accessible for our seniors. Thankfully many of the senior housing development facilities are located close to malls so they can, if physically able, still independently purchase groceries, go to the medical clinic and pharmacy. However, getting to social functions in the afternoon and evening are increasingly difficult and the handi-dart service leaves for long waiting periods to be picked up after events. I have also heard from those in locations that are not near shopping centres that they have to walk two or more blocks to catch transit which often leaves them deciding to stay at home. There is a transit report ready for the new council to review with the RDN and should be high on the priority list as it effects many citizens in Nanaimo of all ages.
Conrad Peach: Transportation! We need our city to be more accessable and inviting for people to engage in.
Noah Routley: Affordable housing for seniors.
Kevin Storrie: Mobility and access issues.
Ian Thorpe: If I were on the Nanaimo Seniors’ Task Force committee, the #1 thing I would want to target to improve seniors’ quality of life would be in the area of health and community services. Seniors are increasingly in need of services that are accessible and affordable. We need to work with Island Health to better promote programs and services that are available, and improve awareness of the BC211 program. The City can provide funding or tax exemptions to support local groups such as Old Age Pensioners Society, but we also need to lobby the provincial government to increase funding for caregivers and support services, especially for at-risk or low-income seniors.