Saanich works to improve accessibility for seniors

District of Saanich developing a long-term recreation plan to accommodate changing demographics

A Stretch and Strength class is put through its paces at the Cordova Bay 55+ Association Centre.

A Stretch and Strength class is put through its paces at the Cordova Bay 55+ Association Centre.

Local seniors can expect to see changes to local recreation centres as the District of Saanich reviews and refines public feedback as it develops a long-term recreation plan to accommodate changing demographics.

“Although we offer a wide variety of older adult programs we heard that many older adults perceive recreation centres are for the young and only for sporting activities,” said Julie Wallace, recreation programmer with Saanich Parks and Recreation. “We are looking at ways to change that perception, so all ages know what is available and feel welcome in our facilities.”

Wallace, however, also noted that it is very common for young and older adults to use the same spaces and programs.

“For Saanich, inclusiveness is key, not just with specific age groups, but by also fostering inclusion between groups,” she said.

Wallace made those comments as Saanich continues to review the results of a community forum held last November as part of the Saanich Older Adult Strategy designed to guide the direction of programs and services for seniors in the district over over the next five to 10 years.

The district initiated the review in light of changing demographics showing Saanich’s population is aging.

Saanich’s retiree population is expected to grow by 16,496 over the next 24 years, while the pre-retirement population is expected to decline by 3,450, according to a consultant report from MXD Development Strategies published in 2013.

“We expect this demographic to be very influential in the coming years, which is why our work on the Older Adults Strategy is so important,” said Wallace. “The [strategy] will help us be prepared to serve [older adults] in meaningful ways in the coming years.”

Work on the strategy began last year and featured an extensive consultation process that culminated in the community forum held last November that compiled and catalogued feedback from previous engagement sessions.

Within this context, the forum’s final report called for the creation of a guide that rates and ranks the accessibility of trails similar to the guide produced by Recreation Integration Victoria, an inter-municipal service designed to assist people with disabilities living in the Greater Victoria area pursue active lifestyles.

“We are compiling the results of all the public engagement sessions, determining the emerging themes and creating recommendations and a work plan for council’s consideration and endorsement,” Wallace said. “At this time, such a guide was one of hundreds recommendations shared by the public, so its future is unknown at this time as we work through all the data.”

This said, Wallace is always looking at various ways to make parks and trails more accessible.

“Many of the trails within Saanich are very suitable for those with accessibility challenges, while others are more challenging,” she said. “Valuable feedback from the public will be taken into consideration as we look at possible future enhancements.”

 

A draft plan will go to the public for feedback at the end of March or early April, said Wallace. “We expect the final strategy to go for Saanich council approval in June of this year, and would be happy to report back on our findings at that time.”