The Alberni Valley Age-Friendly Working Group meets (before the COVID-19 pandemic). (SUBMITTED PHOTO)

Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District seeks ‘age-friendly’ community designation

Plan would enable Alberni Valley seniors to age in place: ACRD

The Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District (ACRD) is applying to the provincial government for recognition as an “age-friendly” community.

During an ACRD board meeting on Wednesday, June 24, the board heard from planner Amy Anaka as she presented the regional district’s Age-Friendly Plan, developed over a period of eight months with guidance from an Age-Friendly Working Group. The group engaged with the community through a survey and an age-friendly workshop, hosted on Feb. 6 of this year.

READ MORE: Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District’s action plan aims to activate seniors

The goal of the plan, said Anaka, is to keep Alberni Valley residents aging in place and living in the Alberni Valley.

Census data shows that almost 22 percent of ACRD residents are 65 and older, which is higher than the provincial average of 18.3 percent. In the Alberni Valley electoral areas (Beaufort, Beaver Creek, Cherry Creek and Sproat Lake), 45 percent of residents are 55 and older.

“With this aging population, the ACRD recognizes there’s a need to plan to support this aging in place,” said Anaka on Wednesday.

Results from the ACRD’s age-friendly survey show that there is plenty to celebrate. Seniors cited many opportunities for community participation and recreation—including the Echo Sunshine Club, Friendly Phone Service and North Island College’s ElderCollege classes.

READ MORE: You’re not alone with Friendly Phone Service

“That’s something to celebrate,” said Anaka. “We have a lot of things that are already underway in the Alberni Valley.”

But seniors also had a number of concerns related to health care supports and communication. One of the biggest concerns was around transportation. An overwhelming 97 percent of respondents said they are still driving themselves to get around.

“That’s wonderful that they’re able to drive themselves,” said Anaka. “But what happens when they no longer have their driver’s licence or they’re not physically able?”

When asked where they saw themselves in 10 years, 73 percent of respondents said they would like to be living in their own home.

Based on these results, the Age-Friendly Plan included an action plan with 12 priority actions to implement:

1. Integrate the Age-Friendly Action Plan into staff work plans and annual reporting.

2. Form an Age-Friendly Stakeholder Advisory Committee.

3. Develop an implementation and funding strategy related to the Age-Friendly Plan.

4. Advocate and promote alternative transportation options focused on seniors in the Alberni Valley.

5. Develop an Age-Friendly Design Policy and Checklist to audit existing and plan for new ACRD-owned parks and

infrastructure.

6. Apply for funding to expand integrated programming and intergenerational community hubs to reduce

social isolation of seniors and their caregivers.

7. Launch a virtual volunteer bank, matching people’s skills and interest to the community’s needs.

8. Update and implement strategies to involve more seniors and people with disabilities in intergenerational

neighbourhood emergency preparation, information dissemination and safety programs.

9. Develop a Community Resource Directory with age-friendly branding, and create an awareness campaign

related to the Age-Friendly Plan and related actions.

10. Undertake a housing needs assessment and report.

11. Promote increase of bench dedication program and explore the inclusion of alternative wheel-friendly trails,

providing inclusive trails for all ages and abilities.

12. Support more cultural inclusion and begin a dialogue with Tseshaht First Nation and Hupacasath First

Nation regarding seniors’ initiatives and possible win-win initiatives.

The ACRD board of directors voted on Wednesday to endorse this plan and implement these priority actions. The board also directed ACRD staff to apply for Age-Friendly BC Community recognition from the province and BC Healthy Communities.

This recognition means that the regional district will be promoted through BC Healthy Communities publications as an age-friendly community.

“Basically it’s bragging rights,” Anaka said.

The recognition will also allow the ACRD to apply for future funding.

The District of Tofino received age-friendly recognition back in 2017, and Tofino mayor Josie Osborne said the municipality has found its Age-Friendly Plan to be helpful in other community planning matters.

“I can’t believe how much it comes up and how much we refer back to our age-friendly plan, and how informative it’s been in strategic planning for the municipality,” she said. “This is a really foundational document.”



elena.rardon@albernivalleynews.com

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