Committed To Becoming More Age-Friendly
Municipality of Saanich Canada
Saanich joined the World Health Organization Age-Friendly Cities Project in 2006. The resulting report created a lens for the municipality to use when planning and building age friendly amenities into the future. Since 2008 the demographics have continued to see increases in the older adult population. Many projects have been completed throughout the municipality over the past eleven years and many are currently underway.
Following completion of the report, there are many examples of the influence that the age friendly principles have had in the District’s strategic and community planning processes. In June 2007, upon a recommendation from the Healthy Saanich Advisory Committee, Council forwarded a resolution to the Union of B.C. Municipalities to “urge the provincial government to support, in a coordinated manner across the province, the implementation of age-friendly tools by local governments, which will help adapt the built, physical and social environments of their communities to support the needs of seniors.” District staff incorporated an age-friendly lens on the consultation process of the 2008 update of the Official Community Plan. After this point age-friendly initiatives were also highlighted as priorities in the 2010-2014 Strategic plan.
In 2012, the District was celebrated by the Ministry of Health as one of 9 designated age-friendly cities in the province. This accolade was accompanied by a recognition poster which is on public display in the café at Saanich Commonwealth Place. Once a municipality/district is recognized, the Ministry of Health shares this information with the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC). The PHAC Pan-Canadian Age-friendly Community reference group, consisting of representatives from all provinces and some municipalities, together with agencies like CMHC is co-chaired by Saanich Councilor Judy Brownoff. This group meets monthly to identify webinar ideas, and to liaise with the Canadian representative to the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Federation of Aging. In 2014, an update to the WHO Global Age-friendly Cities Project was developed and this update was posted on the Saanich website. Information regarding the District’s approach to and planning for an age friendly community can be found on the Saanich website.
DISCUSSION – CURRENT STATUS
The principles of an age friendly city currently resonate with staff in all Departments as they proceed with a number of specific strategic initiatives, public participation processes, policy development and a range of programs and services.
Informally, staff have developed an age-friendly framework that is used to support the assessment of the implementation of projects and policies based on the eight pillars of the 2008 WHO Global Age-friendly Cities Guidelines and which represents the “lens” through which staff approach their work. This age friendly frameworks encourages staff to:
- Maintain awareness of the continuum of aging and the various and varying levels of support that will be needed. This may include: translation services, mobility, cognitive skills, affordability, clear and simple communications,
- Reduce social isolation by increasing community connections, services and programs (i.e. through transportation, housing, meeting spaces, cultural opportunities) and/or promoting social inclusion of older adults through designing connections to places,
- Provide meaningful engagement opportunities for older adults where they are valued and consulted about decisions that affect their lives,
- Improve travel in our community by recognizing mobility needs and providing safe, accessible, sustainable and predictable transportation options,
- Support housing opportunities that meet various stages of the life cycle in locations that foster community inclusion and connectedness,
- Support and promote the health benefits of active lifestyles for older adults.
A number of the recommendations from the 2008 Saanich Reports on the WHO Global Age-friendly Cities Project have been addressed and work continues while the concept of developing initiatives which support the principles and guidelines of an age friendly city have been carried forward through a variety of initiatives aimed at providing opportunities for all citizens of Saanich to live in a healthy and safe environment. However, it is important to note that while the principles of an age friendly community continue to provide a lens through which staff plan and implement the activities of the District, the examples listed here are rarely labeled specifically as an “age friendly” initiative. Rather projects and initiatives tend to focus on the broad scope of improving the quality of life for all citizens.
Current and Ongoing Initiatives Supporting an Age Friendly Community
Since a previous update in 2014, the following strategic planning processes, policy development, civil projects and/or programs and services continue to reveal the District’s attention to the age friendly community principles as outlined by the eight primary categories of the WHO Age Friendly Cities Guidelines:
Outdoor Spaces and Buildings
- 2016-2018: Changeroom accessibility upgrades undertaken at Cedar Hill Recreation Centre and planning underway for upgrades at G.R. Pearkes Recreation Centre which includes features such as grab bars, seating, shower wands and removal of physical barriers,
- 2016-2017: Improved seating for viewing and social opportunities at Saanich Commonwealth Place, G.R. Pearkes Recreation Centre and Gordon Head Recreation Centre,
- 2015 onwards: Engineering Department is undertaking a Strategic Facilities Plan which will includes considerations for accessibility improvements via input from citizens.
- 2016-2018: The District’s Active Transportation Plan is currently in development and includes considerations for improving pedestrian and cyclist mobility, safety and enhanced connectivity for all citizens, plan development includes participation of older adults in the consultation process,
- Ongoing: Annual focus on pedestrian mobility improvements which included the following additions in 2016: 3 km of new sidewalks, 33 curb ramps, 11 pedestrian crossings, 18 new street benches and 20 new bus shelters.
- 2016 onwards: The Council approved Shelbourne Valley Action Plan established goals and identified potential initiatives to improve pedestrian mobility, safety enhancements and transit infrastructure improvements in this segment of the District.
- Ongoing: The Accessible Housing Policy guides development to include basic accessibility requirements to be met for all apartment buildings,
- 2007 onwards: Over the past decade Saanich has supported the development of the following community based housing: Mt. View Carey Campus of Care (affordable rental and care facility); Rosalie’s Village (Affordable rental – women); Quadra/Tolmie (seniors’ at risk of homelessness); Townley Ave. (Affordable rental); Arrow Road (Affordable rental); and Admirals/Gorge (Market Housing with Care). Currently working on project in Linley/Nigel Valley (Affordable rental with supports).
Respect and Social Inclusion
- 2016-2017: Improvements made to Gore-Peace Memorial Park on Shelbourne St. to improve visibility, seating and ease of cleanliness in this park dedicated to Saanich citizens that lost their lives in World War I,
- 2016: Worked with the local neighbourhood and the Gorge Tillicum Community Association to build an open community garden at Gorge Park which provides opportunities for social participation and inclusion,
- Ongoing: Saanich Police Department offers ongoing educational workshops and information regarding Fraud Prevention, Elder Abuse and other specific topics related to safety for older adults and seniors. Presentations can be made upon request and often occur at seniors housing complexes in the District.
- 2017 onwards: Completed the Council approved Older Adults Parks and Recreation Strategy which provides direct input from citizens 50 years and older to provide clear recommendations towards improved programming and service delivery options, facility accessibility enhancements, partnership opportunities and relevant communication strategies,
- 2016 onwards: Increased opportunities for Pickleball participation with a range of play options and levels of challenge at Cedar Hill Recreation Centre, G.R. Pearkes Recreation Centre and Saanich Commonwealth Place as well as the provision of dedicated outdoor Pickleball courts at Tolmie Park.
- 2017 onwards: Increased number of lanes and times available for water walking and aqua-fit classes to address the demand at Saanich Commonwealth Place.
- Ongoing: Offer Community Kitchens through Gordon Head Recreation Centre and G.R. Pearkes Recreation Centre providing opportunities for older adults to prepare healthy take home meals together in a social setting.
Communications and Information
- 2016: Implementation of the upgraded Saanich website included options for larger font sizes, increased white space and contrast options as well as improved navigation features,
- Ongoing: Corporate Services ensures that the Municipal Reception Desk is always staffed to offer one on one personal service and human contact in phone answering services,
- Ongoing: Saanich Fire Department offers Fall Prevention and Fire Safety Awareness Workshops specific for the older population to include smoke alarm education, hazard removal and evacuation procedures.
Civic Participation and Employment
- 2017: Council and Committee of the Whole Meetings to be available to the public via webcasting and archived video footage facilitating access to those with mobility challenges and/or other barriers to viewing of Council business,
- Ongoing: The District offers volunteer opportunities for all citizens in the areas of Emergency Preparedness, BlockWatch, Pulling Together – Parks Invasive Species Program, Recreation Programs and Municipal Special Events.
Community Support and Health Services
- Ongoing: Programs and Workshops offered in partnership with Island Health and/or other non-governmental health agencies include the Diabetes Wellness Clinics, Blood Pressure Clinics and Hearing Screening clinics at Cedar Hill Recreation Centre and Saanich Commonwealth Place,
- 2017: Gordon Head Recreation Centre and Community Services worked in partnership with the University of Victoria Island Health Research Program to host Community Dialogues for Health.
With these examples, it is clear that many of the strategic initiatives, projects and programs planned and implemented by the District of Saanich address the fundamental principles set forth by the World Health Organization‘s Age Friendly City Guidelines. There is great pride in the recognition the District has received over the years for the continued efforts and focus on the support of our older citizens. As such, confidence remains that the District is meeting the tenets of an age friendly community by: recognizing the great diversity among older persons; promoting their inclusion and contribution to community; respecting their decisions and lifestyle choices; and by responding flexibly to aging related needs and preferences.