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Building cities to accommodate seniors good for everyone — advocate

Forum Oct. 1 will look at ways Tri-Cities can be age-friendly
A forum on age-friendly cities will be held Oct. 1 in Coquitlam.

It will take time and effort to encourage Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam and Port Moody to become age-friendly cities.

But the effort will be worth it if the Tri-Cities becomes more accommodating to people from age eight to 80, says Ken Kuhn, an organizer with the Tri-Cities Seniors Planning Network, which is hosting a day of discussion, interaction, food and fun on National Seniors Day, Oct. 1.

While adopting age-friendly strategies is usually aimed at strengthening supports for seniors, Kuhn said everyone benefits when transportation, community centres, housing and other programs are more accessible.

“We need to work on our policies and encourage the municipalities and governments to get on board," he told The Tri-City News.

Among his concerns is paid parking at hospitals and community recreation centres, such as Coquitlam's City Centre Aquatic Complex, Eagle Ridge Hospital in Port Moody and Royal Columbian in New Westminster.

“That’s atrocious, that requires a policy change,” Kuhn said of hospital parking fees, while adding paying for parking at community centres could prevent some people from participating in healthy activities.

To get people thinking about this topic, the network is hosting a Toward an Age-Friendly Tri-Cities Forum at Winslow Centre, 1100 Winslow Ave., Coquitlam from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Kuhn said he hopes city councillors, as well as city planners, show up for the event to learn how other cities have become-age friendly while Coquitlam, PoCo and PoMo, have not achieved the designation, although the latter city has started the process.

A free event, the forum will offer five workshops for attendees on interesting and important seniors’ issues, 20 exhibitors for seniors’ services and products, lunch provided (for those that register) and door prizes.

In addition to information on fall prevention, sleep, medication awareness and employment opportunities for those 55 or older, there will be a panel discussion on what it means to have an age-friendly community.

The panel, running from 11:15 a.m. to 12:20 p.m., will feature Marcy Cohen, a research associate with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, and project team lead for Raising the Profile project; Sahra-Lea Tosdevine Tataryn with the age-friendly strategy for seniors in Surrey; and Patrick Ward, a strategic social planner for the township of Langley.

The discussion comes as cities are applying for grants to research how to be age-friendly as part of a provincial initiative through the Seniors’ Healthy Living Secretariat.

PoMo is surveying people about their ideas about how to help Port Moody become an age-friendly, which is defined as a place where older people can lead active lifestyles, live in security, enjoy good health, and continue to participate fully in society. 

The plan will help the city adapt its policies, services, settings, and structures to meet the needs of people of all ages and abilities, including improving access to transportation, housing, opportunities for social participation and community support.

In its handbook for cities, the province says local governments can start with small projects, typically undertaken by a champion, that could include seating along a public walkway and posting of signs to a public washroom, as a start.

“These small projects instilled confidence in the community’s age-friendly initiative as a whole, did not require much cost or time, and also inspired people to tackle more complex issues,” the handbook suggests.

But making a community age-friendly will take more than a few local projects, according to Raising the Profile.

In its research, Raising the Profile found that there are barriers to access community amenities such as senior centres because of lack of transportation, space and programming to support ethnic diversity, and because of budget constraints.

Cohen is expected to speak to a number of challenges and successes when she speaks at the forum, according to Kuhn, who is organizing the event.

To register for the free event, visit here.