Rothesay seeks to become 'age-friendly' community

With its stately heritage homes, riverfront views and picturesque churches, the town of Rothesay looks like an idyllic place to retire. Turns out a lot of people have that same idea.

With 17.7% of residents over 65, Rothesay looks to accommodate aging population

With 17.7 per cent of Rothesay's population 65 or older, says Mayor Nancy Grant, it's time for the town to reach out to seniors, businesses and realtors to ensure it's an age-friendly community. (CBC News)

With its stately heritage homes, riverfront views and picturesque churches, the town of Rothesay looks like an idyllic place to retire. Turns out a lot of people have that same idea.

In the 2016 census, 17.7 per cent of Rothesay residents were 65 or over, according to Rothesay Mayor Nancy Grant.

"We're a bit younger than the province, which has a percentage of 19.9, but we're older than Canada as a whole, which is presenting with 16.9 per cent," Grant said.

Quispamsis still has a higher percentage of seniors than either Rothesay or Saint John, at 19.9 per cent. 

Dr. Nancy Grant is mayor of Rothesay. Council has set a goal to develop a more age-friendly community. 8:47

Rothesay has a lot going for it already from an accessibility perspective, including a compact, walkable business district, lots of amenities and a good active transportation system.

Last summer, a new sidewalk constructed on Parkdale Avenue with seniors in mind linked many seniors on Chapel Hill Boulevard with businesses on Hampton Road.

But there are also areas that need improvement as the the town evolves to serve a burgeoning population of seniors.

Better bus system

Public transportation is one area that could be more accessible.

"We have Comex, but seniors need something more flexible," Grant said.

Seniors have also made it clear they think "the town can do a better job with information-sharing through good old-fashioned methods, like bulletin boards," Grant said.

Seniors have also requested designated space in the community where they can participate in, and facilitate, programs, she said.

All those big, beautiful homes can also be an issue as seniors look to downsize.

Making Rothesay age-friendly means making it friendly to all, says Grant. (Rachel Cave/CBC)

"Most of our housing stock is large, single-family homes with big properties," Grant said. "We have no retirement complexes or nursing homes."

Since big homes are expensive and need a lot of care, Grant is concerned that Rothesay could eventually lose its seniors to other communities.

"We need to diversify our housing," said Grant. "We have a new condo development, and a new apartment development right in the middle of town, but seniors are looking for more affordable housing. We're not quite there yet."

'Age-friendly' community

Rothesay council has resolved to make the town an "age-friendly community."

This is a designation for which the World Health Organization has developed standards, including including a "checklist of age-friendly things that must be present in each domain: outdoor spaces and buildings, transportation, housing, social participation, inclusion, respect, communication," said Grant.

The goal is to design policies, services and structures that help seniors keep active, live safely, enjoy good health and stay involved.

The Town of Rothesay has appointed a committee of seniors, businesses, first responders, builders and realtors to discuss how the town can better respond to a range of aging-related concerns.

'If a community is age friendly, that means it's not just friendly for seniors — it's friendly for everyone."- Rothesay Mayor Nancy Grant

The next step is a survey of seniors "to see what we're doing well, what we're not doing well, and how we can improve," said Grant.

The survey will be distributed at churches, community centres, and coffee shops.

"Then after that, we design an implementation plan to see how we're going to deal with the results," Grant said.

Everyone stands to benefit from a community that includes people of all ages, Grant said.

"If a community is age-friendly, that means it's not just friendly for seniors," she said.

"It's friendly for everyone."

With files from Information Morning Saint John