Consultant Anne-Marie Whitaker updates Cumberland council on how ‘age-friendly’ the community is for older adults and seniors. Photo by Mike Chouinard

Cumberland aims to be ‘age-friendly’ for seniors

Older residents still make about a sizeable portion of Village population

If Cumberland has young families moving in, there are still many seniors in the community.

At the same meeting as a presentation on local child care demand and resources, council was presented with a report on how to make Cumberland more “age-friendly.”

RELATED STORY: Cumberland council hears message of child care shortage

“Age-friendly planning is really a planning initiative or a framework. It’s directed and focussed on older adults – in other words, 55 years and up and seniors,” said Anne-Marie Whitaker of EcoPlan International, who produced the report.

At the Jan. 13 meeting, she acknowledged the previous presentation about child care and how Cumberland is attracting so many young families, but seniors still make up about a sizeable portion of the population – 29 per cent. The senior population in Canada is expected to grow in the coming years, with seniors making up 23 per cent of the population by 2030.

“We’re only getting older,” she added.

Whitaker outlined for council what is age-friendly, what is moving in the right direction and what needs more attention. She broke down here findings into eight categories, based on ones based on the World Health Organization framework: municipal buildings, parks and streets; transportation; housing; social participation; respect and social inclusion; civic engagement, employment and learning; age-friendly communication and information; and services to meet people’s daily needs, community support and health services. Whitaker also said the provincial and federal governments also have frameworks that were used in the plan.

When it comes to things like public spaces, Cumberland is making progress on new buildings but faces accessibility issues for older structures. The infrastructure for getting around was also an issue.

“Many people here really talked about the streets and sidewalks,” Whitaker said.

The categories that showed the most work needing to be done were transportation, housing, employment and learning, civic engagement and access to services, whether that means things like health care or even having places for groceries. In these cases, older people often have to turn to outside communities, which underscores the need for transportation links. The report makes recommendations around adding more regional transit destinations, developing a housing strategy, create senior-specific forums around civic issues and even explore opportunities for partnerships around services like a seniors’ centre, wellness clinic or drop-in centre.

The categories that showed the most progress for the community were around social participation, respect and social inclusion, and age-friendly communications. As the report states, “Cumberland does particularly well when it comes to the social participation category.” It goes on to say the community considers opportunities for seniors when it comes to participation in recreational, cultural, leisure and other activities.

As far as communications, the report notes the Village provides front desk staff to answer questions and sends out regular news updates. During the discussion, council touched on ideas to make the Village website a little more age-friendly.

The Village received a grant in 2019 to do the report in order to increase awareness of what seniors need for active, healthy and productive lives, as well as look for ideas on how to improve their lives.

While the Village’s financial plan for 2020 does not allocate funds to implement the ideas, a staff report notes a number of projects already planned for this year will support the implementation of some recommendations that EcoPlan International brought to council’s attention.



mike.chouinard@comoxvalleyrecord.com

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