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Finding ways to help seniors stay in their communities the focus of age-friendly committee

Housing, transportation and access to services are the top priorities for Woolwich’s seniors, according to preliminary work done by the township’s advisory committee looking at ways to make the community more age-friendly.

The project is a partnership of the township as well as Community Care Concepts, the Woolwich Seniors Association, the Woolwich Community Health Centre and Woolwich Community Services.

“The biggest part of the work to date has been reaching out to groups of seniors in the community to help learn what is it in this community that makes what people think would be a community that would be friendly to all of us as we age,” said advisory committee member Ingrid Pregel.

While the age-friendly designation applies to the full spectrum, much of the input has come from seniors concerned about being able to stay in their communities as mobility and access to services such as medical care become larger issues.

“Immediately the most important things that arise are ‘can I continue to live in my own community as I get older, can I afford to keep living in my community, when I become less mobile can I get the services I need or do I have to move to a place where I can get those services, and do they exist in the township?”

The committee has also acknowledged there are numerous seniors and a variety of concerns for each. Some want accessible affordable housing, while others aren’t concerned about the affordability. They’ve asked some 200 people so far what their ideal age-friendly community would look like. They’ve also asked what they love about living in Woolwich.

She says the main response they’ve heard is a sense of belonging and the community connections.

“They love the opportunity to see urban settings on the one hand and then thriving farms and wonderful green spaces and nature. They love the idea that at night they can go out their back door and look up at the stars and it’s peaceful and it’s quiet, but we’re right down the road from cities where other amenities exist.”

The committee is now in the process of developing a draft plan which will set out their priorities. They’ve looked at the work that’s been done locally to create an age-friendly community, as well as across the globe.

One idea they saw in other communities was repurposing public spaces, like schools that had closed, into seniors’ housing.

“We know that not only are the townships growing faster than the cities, and we know that the elderly population, the seniors groups, 55-plus, are growing at an even faster rate than the regular population. We know that the demand is already here and is only going to increase, so it’s important to do this work.”

She notes they’ve also heard in their discussions with seniors that it’s one thing to create a plan, but it’s of no use until it’s being put to use. They’ll be presenting some of their findings at the seniors’ fair in Breslau on Mar. 28. They will be finalizing the plan over the coming months before submitting it to council in May.

“It’s really important for people to see that seniors are the ones that are doing this work, we’re just the facilitators guiding the process.”

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