The City of Quesnel has received a $15,000 age-friendly grant through the Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) and the B.C. Ministry of Health.
Coun. Mitch Vik, who is also the chair of the Age Friendly Initiative Committee, says the funding comes as the second stream of a grant the City received last year.
Of the $15,000, $10,000 will go toward hiring a co-ordinator to begin to implement some of the key suggestions in an Age-Friendly report and action plan received by the City last June.
The co-ordinator will work with Vik to figure out key parts of the report that need to be implemented and will also work on the creation of a new seniors’ council for Quesnel.
The seniors’ council will be made up of partners from the community, like Northern Health, and the many seniors’ advocacy groups in the area, says Vik.
The council will sit down with Vik and the co-ordinator and help them to address what needs to be done and how to implement it.
The council will also be responsible for coming up with a directory of sorts.
Although the City has many resources for seniors, Vik says many seniors “find it overwhelming to know where to go for what, so part of the seniors’ council’s mandate will be to organize those services so seniors know where to go and how to access those services.”
Although a brochure or directory would be the basic example of that, Vik says he’s hoping to start a program involving ambassadors who are able to go around the community and get the word out verbally, communicating with seniors beyond just a pamphlet.
While he and the co-ordinator will be working with the seniors’ council, Vik says he’s already teased out several important aspects of the age-friendly report to get started on.
“By looking at the action plan, I’ve picked a few things I think are really important: transportation … there’s a gap there and [what we have] doesn’t quite meet the need. Seniors need a more flexible way to get to appointments — doctor’s appointments — and groceries … Another one is walk-ability in the community.”
Vik says there’s quite a few items in the report regarding walkability in Quesnel and that some headway has already been made in the City.
“There was a huge push the year before last, and I think we got almost 20 businesses to get automatic doors,” he says, as an example. “So that needs to continue, and also improving some of our crosswalks.”
The paint on crosswalks needs to be more visible — something a different kind of paint is required to achieve — and the City needs to work with the Ministry of Transportation to extend the timers at crosswalks.
Vik says the City also needs to work on curb cuts, which will make the sidewalks more accessible to wheelchairs, walkers and scooters.
The final aspect Vik says he would like to focus on is social participation for seniors.
“There are quite a few activities for seniors in our community, but we need to keep businesses aware that seniors are important and can be — if they desire — an important part of our workforce,” he says.
Vik says along with that, he also wants to research activities that seniors and younger demographics can do to spend more time together.
“Bringing younger kids together with seniors, I think, would really enhance quality of life for seniors,” he says.
The age-friendly grant money will also go toward hosting another free breakfast and resource fair for seniors, following the success of the one that was held in September 2018.
Quesnel was one of seven communities in northern B.C. to receive an age-friendly grant this month.
“Seniors are at the heart of their communities, and it’s important that they are able to age well at home so they can continue to contribute positively to their neighbourhoods,” Anne Kang, the Parliamentary Secretary for Seniors, says in a press release from the Ministry of Health.
“The impact of the age-friendly grants is great, and because of the success of the program, we have seen it grow year after year.”
According to the Ministry of Health press release, communities that have completed steps toward becoming age-friendly can officially be recognized by the Province of B.C. as being an age-friendly community.