By Steve Hubrecht
[email protected]

Canal Flats now officially has an age-friendly plan, which aims to make the village a place where seniors are better supported, better able to remain in their homes longer, and are more active and engaged with the community.

The village contracted ISL Engineering and Land Services to create the plan, and company representative Courtney Laurence digitally attended the Tuesday, May 25 council meeting to present it.

Laurence began by outlining that age-friendly communities (which Canal Flats is seeking to become with the plan) support older people to help them age with dignity, respect and independence; promote the inclusion of older adults in as many areas of community life as possible; and are physically designed to address the needs of all residents, including seniors.

Canal Flats’s age-friendly plan, said Laurence, sets goals for the village to become age-friendly and lists actions that need to be taken to achieve these goals. She enumerated eight key sections the plan covers including: outdoor spaces, transportation, housing, social participation, respect and social inclusion, civic participation and employment, communication and information, and community support and health services.

On the topic of transport, Laurence noted that “we heard a lot (from Canal Flats seniors) that because it (public transport) is not regular, it’s hard for people to access services.” In terms of housing, she said “there’s not a lot of options available for seniors’ housing (in Canal Flats).” When it comes to social participation, Laurence pointed out that although the village has plenty of activities and groups for seniors to join, many of these have been heavily impacted by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and she suggested it would be good to develop other ways for local seniors to stay connected.

Canal Flats already has a great start on communication and information, according to Laurence, in the form of its community newsletter. She suggested adding a seniors-specific section to the newsletter. Noting that seniors, and virtually every other age group, are dealing with increases in mental health and wellness issues during the pandemic, Laurence said establishing something such as a community garden could give local seniors, and indeed the whole village, a nice mental boost.

Councillor Doug McCutcheon said that, in his mind, age-friendly “is one of the highest priority things the village has to pay attention to. To me, it’s something we haven’t done a very good job of.”

McCutcheon said putting all the report’s recommendations into action is likely more than what village staff can handle, given that they have a lot on their plates, and wondered whether or not it would be worth the village hiring a contractor with expertise in the field to help Canal Flats implement the plan.

Canal Flats mayor Karl Sterzer said he’s proud of the strong leadership local seniors show in many Canal Flats civic and volunteer groups, and suggested that tapping into that spirit could help the plan be successfully implemented.

Councillor Bill Lake asked Laurence which sections of the plan are most pressing in her estimate. Laurence replied that communications and information, and access to services seem to have been mentioned the most prominently by local seniors.