Julie Wallace, recreation programmer with Saanich Parks and Recreation, helped collect information on what older adults would like to see in Saanich parks. (Saanich News file photo)

Saanich improves recreational opportunities for older adults

By Julie Wallace

For the Saanich News

In June 2017 Saanich council adopted the Saanich Parks and Recreation’s Older Adults Strategy. The strategy was constructed over 18 months and included public engagement with over 2,400 participants, as well as input from senior-serving organizations and staff. What was created was a five-year, comprehensive strategy and implementation plan to address the needs and requirements of an aging population.

The strategy includes four strategic priorities: programming continuum, age-friendly spaces, collaboration and enhanced communication. It is an ambitious plan which includes 34 goals and even more actions and outcomes.

During the public engagements, it was frequently mentioned the importance of more social opportunities and older adult clubs within recreation centres. In collaboration with two existing groups at Cedar Hill Community Recreation Centre we began to work together to create a new and vibrant club. In January the new Cedar Hill 55+ Social Club began.

The club includes existing activities, and plans are underway to add more activities and social opportunities as the membership increases. Currently, members can participate in bridge, bingo, carpet bowling, table tennis, cards and social tea/coffee times. A new, special treat that’s available are 20-minute massages on Fridays by the West Coast School of Massage Therapy. Weekend social times, book clubs and Sunday afternoon movies are just some of the potential new programs to be added in the near future. The membership is $40 a year and input on future activities is always appreciated.

Another program recently added in Saanich, with thanks to an Island Health grant, is the new Caregiver Respite Program at Saanich Commonwealth Place. As the population ages, the demand and need for caregivers rises too. The number of seniors requiring care is set to double over the next 15 years and many of the caregiving will be done by spouses or family.

Recognizing the additional stress placed on caregivers, it is imperative for them to have a break and maintain their health. The new Caregiver Respite Program provides supervised activity for their partner in a safe and fun setting and allows caregivers a short two-hour break for themselves. Caregivers can relax in the library, have lunch in the café, exercise, go for a walk or just hang out in the hot tub. This is pilot project that Saanich hopes to expand on as the need for this service is in such high demand.

Saanich Parks has recently been successful in receiving a federal grant to improve the Lambrick Park pathway to Gordon Head Recreation Centre. This renovation will improve accessibility and safety to the entrance of Gordon Head Recreation Centre, a concern for many older adults with mobility challenges and one of many noted in the Older Adults Strategy

These are just a few of the many action items that Saanich Parks and Recreation hopes to implement in 2018, with many more goals to come in the following years. For a complete view of the Saanich Parks and Recreation Older Adults Strategy 2017-2022 go to www.saanich.ca/EN/main/parks-recreation-culture/community-recreation-services/older-adults-recreation.html or call Julie Wallace at 250-475-5408 for more information.

Julie Wallace is a recreation programmer with Saanich Parks and Recreation.

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