Work on the Age-Friendly Master Plan for Haliburton County continues and is requiring more input from the public says the chairwoman of the Aging Well Committee.
Angela Andrews said after two work group meetings and four focus groups held an online survey with space for short answers at fluidsurveys.com/surveys/kate-hall/aging-well is needed to supplement the information already collected. Surveys will be collected until Sept. 16.
She welcomes feedback from everyone and not just older people. Andrews believes making the community more age-friendly will benefit everyone.
The Aging Well Committee is partnered with the Haliburton County in this effort which has been supported by all four municipalities. The province kicked in $25000 from its Age Friendly Community Planning Grant Program to hire Kate Hall a consultant for the plan.
Focus groups for the plan were held in four different senior residences in all four municipalities: Dysart Minden Hills Highlands East and Algonquin Highlands.
“Their view of [their] respective community is a lot smaller than we had originally anticipated which is a positive thing. It’s a good thing for us to know of what their needs are individually” she said.
Back in 2010 Andrews said responses came from mainly seniors who lived in their own homes.
There was a conscious effort this year to hear from other seniors which led to an understanding of how influential the local service providers are in making the community age-friendly.
With only close to 30 respondents she acknowledges this is a low total but saw great value in their answers.
“There wasn’t a lot but the perspective is different compared to when we did focus groups last time back in 2010. We didn’t really want to repeat ourselves. We wanted to just gauge where people were at” she said.
From both sets of seniors they voiced a need for transportation assistance housing and transitional care housing. She said the important takeaway is to include service providers in this conversation when coming up with a plan.
“Everybody is on the same page in terms of the direction we’re taking and getting the information from the seniors and the service providers on how we can integrate service and how we can integrate the things we are doing better to meet the needs of our population” she said. “In the past with the last survey in 2010 we didn’t really speak to the service providers. We heard from the community and what was needed but the services provided to the seniors is one of the most important things and if those aren’t meeting the needs that are being identified then we need to do some more work towards that.”
One example is to pool resources to help people with travel to medical appointments in Peterborough. Could there be a day of appointments arranged just for Haliburton County residents? This could allow for transportation co-ordination.
She said the example of an accessibility ramp to the entrance of a building not only makes a place more accessible to older people and those who use a cane walkers or wheelchairs but also families with young children who use strollers.
“Really it’s about trying to change societal views about aging too” she said.
If things such as grab bars in bathrooms were already in place it wouldn’t just be associated with older people it would be the norm.
“With this plan it’s looking at what are the strategic directions or what are the strategic plans of the service groups and how can we align what we found to move in those directions to close the gaps or work closer together to support one another” she said.
Another thing Andrews and the committee discovered in their data collection was to assist with hearing. A simple addition is an amplification system at council meetings so everyone could hear the proceedings without difficulty.
If council chambers included this kind of system then “it would allow more people (not just councillors) but anybody to hear what’s being said. It’s an accessible feature” she said.
Another example of what can get overlooked are chairs with wheels which are difficult for people who need stability to get up or down.
Even arm rests on chairs are a helpful feature for people to push up from.
The committee has also thought of how a portable sound system readily available to the public would address hearing concerns at meetings in the county.
Andrews said the plan doesn’t necessarily change policy so much as provide guidance to improve the community for everyone.
“It’s more of a guide to what can be done with aging so it’s not necessarily an enforcement related thing but more of guidance what can make our community better” she said.
For more information about the project or this survey contact Andrews at 705-457-1391 or Kate Hall at firstname.lastname@example.org.