PEI

Summerside works to create age-friendly city

Summerside is taking steps toward a more senior-friendly future, releasing a report Friday with recommendations to make the city a better place to live for residents over age 55.

New report identifies city's strengths and gaps in 8 key areas

Pat Bendell took part in a focus group that helped Summerside come up with its latest report on creating an age-friendly city. (CBC)

Summerside is taking steps toward a more senior-friendly future, releasing a report Friday with recommendations to make the city a better place to live for residents over age 55.

In 2006, the World Health Organization launched the Age-Friendly Cities Initiative. Experts developed checklists communities could follow to make them more age-friendly under eight categories: housing, transportation, communications and information, civic participation, employment, community health, social participation and social inclusion. 

"It's about creating opportunities," said Summerside project leader Judy-Lynn Richards. "Doing things in an inclusive way." 

Summerside is now in the third year of the five-year WHO process, and last year held 10 focus groups and more than a dozen one-on-one interviews with citizens, businesses and city officials to assess the city. This year will see residents collaborate on an action plan. 

Judy-Lynn RIchards chairs Summerside's age-friendly cities committee. (Province of Prince Edward Island )

Summerside is already an age-friendly city in many ways, Richards said, but their research has identified gaps, as well as strengths.

The focus groups and interviewees said the city needs more low-income housing for those who have only $650 to $700 to spend, and there's a long wait list for subsidized senior housing. 

Doors at the civic centre are too heavy, businesses downtown need better snow-clearing, and city streets need more benches for walkers to rest. 

The bus system needs improvement. 

And some would like a hearing loop system in public places to either amplify audio for those with hearing aids, or portable receivers and headsets can be used. 

They also identified a need for senior advocates for health services when no family is available.

The city plans to put some of the recommendations into action right away.    

"It's going to be a small city that can take a great deal of pride in moving to a place where seniors feel not only welcome, but well-supported. That they have access to the recreation they need, the support systems they need, affordable housing, transportation that makes sense," said Martin. 

Seniors are the only growing demographic on P.E.I. Statistics Canada reported  P.E.I. had 27,180 seniors in 2015, compared to 22,088 in 2010.

More than 1,000 communities in Canada are working toward an age-friendly designation. 

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