Over the past few weeks, I have had the pleasure of visiting almost a dozen seniors centre’s and seniors residences in our city. As one of the Council representative on the Seniors’ Initiative, I have committed to regularly visiting our community hubs for seniors to hear their feedback on all City matters. In honour of National Seniors Day this week, I will relay some of the main themes that came from my visits, as well as highlight the important work of Age Friendly Edmonton.
The seniors in our community continue to enrich our community with their wisdom, volunteerism, zest for life, and so much more. It is always wonderful to visit with seniors and listen to their thoughts on how to improve our city. In my last round of visits, the upcoming municipal Capital and Operating Budget was a focal point. Many seniors are on fixed incomes, and as a result are aware of when prices or taxes go up. Whether a senior is living in their own home, renting, or transitioning to a new living arrangement, the city must be aware of how property tax increases affect our seniors. As such, during upcoming budget deliberations I commit to consider how our decisions will affect our aging population. Anyone that would like to contribute their feedback on the upcoming budget are welcome to fill out this survey, which I will use to help inform my decision later this fall.
A main point of consideration that came up during our conversations was the importance of having safe and walkable sidewalks, especially making sure snow and other barriers are cleared from sidewalks in a timely manner. Walkability is critical for many seniors in our community. If driving is no longer a desirable or available option for seniors, the ability to walk without fear to visit nearby services and attractions, is necessary. While cracks in sidewalks, gravel, or ice may not be a huge concern for able bodied people – it can mean the difference between exploration and isolation for many Edmontonians, including our aging population. Similarly, it is important that drivers in our city take care when driving around seniors centres and residences. As some seniors need a little extra time to cross the street, being thoughtful of your surroundings in areas with high seniors population helps to ensure that everyone is safe.
When discussing safe mobility during my visits to seniors homes, I am often reminded of growing up – when all the children from our block and I would play street hockey in front of our house. This is something that we don’t see as much anymore, as increased road traffic and high speeds have decreased the real and perceived safety of our roads. While I am not suggesting that children play carelessly in the street, we should strive for a level of safety that children and seniors can still be present in our city’s streets without fear.
Age Friendly Edmonton aims to tackle these issues, with a mandate to address key factors that contribute to healthy, active, creative, and aging in Edmonton. Age Friendly Edmonton launched in 2013 with the mission to ensure seniors have access to what they need, are respected and included, safe in their homes and communities, as well as engaged and appreciated. The progress that Age Friendly Edmonton has made since 2013 can be read in their comprehensive report. Based on the extensive consultation and learning from the first five years, Age Friendly Edmonton 2.0 was launched in 2018.
We should all strive towards the four goals of Age Friendly Edmonton 2.0, which are:
- Supporting aging in place.
- Encouraging intergenerational connections.
- Responding to diversity.
- Reducing ageism.
The Age Friendly Edmonton initiative also includes many resources that are helpful for seniors, people with mobility issues, or those supporting an aging person.
Over the past five years being the City Council representative on the Seniors Initiative, I have had the opportunity to speak with hundreds of seniors about the issues that affect them on a daily basis. Listening to stories about the history of our city from seniors has been enlightening over the years – and their wisdom and advice on the future of our community is vital in ensuring Edmonton continues to grow into a city that everyone can live a happy and comfortable life.
Whether it is transportation and mobility, affordability, employment, or recreation – making sure our city’s seniors are well supported is fundamental. To honour this years National Seniors Day, I encourage every Edmontonian to reach out to a senior in your life and educate yourself on the issues that affect our city’s aging population.
Written by A. Knack and M. Banister.