We asked the Saanich mayor and council candidates to provide their thoughts and strategies on Saanich’s aging demographics.
David Cubberley, mayoral candidate:
Society is graying rapidly as the baby boomers reach sixty-five, and the CRD is growing its senior population faster than anywhere else in Canada. Saanich has shown leadership in creating adaptable housing guidelines and supporting seniors’ centres and seniors’ housing, but lags behind in the area of mobility. As people age, they rely more (eventually completely) on getting around on foot or with a device (and using transit). This requires walking environments designed for their needs, especially in core service areas. Some in Saanich are well-designed, but several that serve large populations of advanced seniors – like Shelbourne Village/University Heights – are not and urgently need redesign.
Frank Leonard, mayoral candidate:
We are proud that Saanich has been recognized by the World Health Organization as a senior-friendly community. We believe in a healthy community, so we have invested in four community recreation centres and four seniors centres. Investments in mobility are important for all ages; what we do for seniors is good for all.
Susan Brice, council candidate:
Our population is aging and we are planning to ensure that Saanich is an age-friendly community. Saanich can learn from other nations around the world whose demographics have shifted at an even greater pace than we experience here. In conjunction with the World Health Organization Saanich took a leadership role in the Global Age-Friendly Project. Buildings and infrastructure must be adapted to accommodate mobility challenges and over this past term council has made significant investments in curb cuts, traffic signals and other adaptations to ensure accessibility. We need to provide more benches, provide wheelchair and scooter access in public and private facilities, provide more public washrooms and design sidewalks wider to accommodate scooters and walkers. A community that is more accommodating to seniors is of benefit to all age groups. In programming we respect an age diverse population and in our village-like communities we must ensure that there are no barriers to participation in a full life regardless of age.
Judy Brownoff, council candidate:
By creating environments with the of support of many groups, including seniors, elected officials, business leaders, service providers to improve peoples’ lives and the quality of community life. Programs, partnership and the built environment all play a role and we need to ask and include our seniors in aspects that can improve their quality of life in Saanich. It is obvious with the demographics changing, we all need to be mindful how we recognize, appreciate and adapt for our aging population and then, we can make our communities truly liveable, for all.
Vic Derman, council candidate:
Currently, we have rapidly growing senior population. While seniors are more vibrant, active and involved than ever, needs do change with age. Scooters, for example, present a particular challenge. They are an attractive mobility option for many seniors but are hazardous if forced to mingle with traffic. We must consider different sidewalk standards that will allow safe passage for scooters while still providing a comfortable environment for pedestrians. I will continue to support this, and other policies, that meet the needs of our seniors.
Paul Gerrard, council candidate:
Saanich has an aging population, which has repercussions for all of our communities and our infrastructure, which is also aging. As Councillors, we are aware that we need our communities to be designed to a new and different standard. This means wider and separated sidewalks with curb cuts to accommodate wheelchairs, scooters and walkers. Although developments have to adhere to an accessibility standard, there are elements that can be added to improve the quality of life for our aging population, such as electric plug – ins in parking areas and at refuge stations in apartments.
Ingrid Ip, council candidate:
To reiterate my concern regarding affordable housing, this impacts the aging population as much as the young. It is very difficult to downsize in Saanich and to still have some money left over to supplement pensions. I am concerned that the requirement for the huge houses that have been built over the late few years will become dinosaurs with not enough affordable ranchers and patio homes for seniors. Not all seniors want to be in a condo. We also need to keep taxes down with so many people facing fixed incomes.
Dean Murdock, council candidate:
As our population ages, it’s important that our community has the infrastructure and services to allow older adults to “age in place”. That means making neighbourhoods and major routes more accessible and welcoming. Let’s upgrade our sidewalks, cross walks and bus stops so they can be used by people requiring mobility assistance and those with hearing or visual impairments. Our major centres and the commercial services within them need to be designed with older adults in mind. Our recreation centres and community programmes should reflect the needs of an aging population.
Vicki Sanders, council candidate:
My policy is “aging in place” where seniors do not have to leave Saanich to afford housing and services. The municipality needs to provide recreational facilities, programming and affordable transit. As well, I believe that all development plans should consider adaptable housing guidelines—wider doorways for walkers and wheelchairs, providing housing integrated with existing communities. An example would be Dawson Heights and the new Carey Road campus of care that provide a variety of levels of housing.
Nichola Wade, council candidate:
As a mature community, we are blessed with mature residents. The reality of living in an attractive community is that Saanich will continue to attract retirees. Through housing affordability initiatives, we can also attract young families but the demographics of aging are such that Saanich must adapt to offer residents services to meet their needs not the other way round. Weekday demand at recreation centres, additional supports for snow clearing and mobility challenges are just a few examples of how we must move to accommodate seniors needs.
Leif Wergeland, council candidate:
Not only do we need to recognize that Saanich has an aging demographic but we also need to plan long range as to how we will meet their needs. These needs will include such things as transportation, pedestrian walkways, housing, building codes, recreation, parks and trails, retirement homes, and proximity to amenities. If the majority of our residents are going to be seniors in the next 20 years then it should be reflected in our planning.
Rob Wickson, council candidate:
We are not doing enough to address the needs of our seniors in the area of affordable and accessible housing and in the provision of safe, well maintained sidewalks. Good transportation networks that do not leave people isolated are a priority. LRT and an integrated transit system is vital to connect all our community. We need to be inclusive and not exclusive.
Harald Wolf, council candidate:
Our demographics – including “inevitable” growth – are almost universally accepted as something that will and must happen. However, they are rarely examined in the context of true sustainability. It is only a recent phenomena that allows older people to live independently, away from family, in accordance only to what they can afford to pay for. With economic instability, food and fuel shortages, and possible severe weather events, families will have to re-integrate. I do not believe the rush of retirees headed here will actually materialize. We must focus more on creating meaningful job opportunities, and housing for the workers in those jobs. This calls for a better economic strategy, one not driven by the tourism and real estate industries.