A current initiative will help shape the future for older adults in Saanich.
Saanich Parks and Recreation is in the midst of public consultations in order to develop an older adults strategy in the district.
“What we’re realizing is that we have a changing demographic, obviously, in Saanich, and we want to figure out the best way to provide services and meet the need of that aging demographic in our centres and parks and trails,” said Julie Wallace, a recreation programmer with Saanich Parks and Recreation.
The older adults strategy will guide the direction of programs and services for seniors in the district over the next five to 10 years.
Wallace has been working with staff and volunteers along with a consultant in a public consultation process that began in May. That process has resulted in about 30 public engagements at local libraries, senior centres as well as local events such as Strawberry Fest.
“We want to hear about their perceptions of Saanich Parks and Recreation – things that we’re doing well, gaps, potential partnerships, areas we could improve, and just basically plan how we want to program and meet the needs of that demographic,” said Wallace.
The public still has a chance to have a say in the process at forums set for Sept. 28 at Saanich Commonwealth Place from 3:30-5 p.m. and at Pearkes Recreation Centre on Oct. 29 from 10-11:30 a.m. An online survey at olderadultstrategy.weebly.com will also be running through the end of October.
“What we’re trying to do now is take the initial information, go through everything that everybody’s been saying and try and categorize it,” said Wallace.
She said transportation is one area that’s been attracting a lot of feedback.
“A lot of it is getting to and from a centre, especially as mobility becomes an issue or they can’t drive any longer,” said Wallace, who suggested volunteer driver programs or working to partner with BC Transit as potential solutions.
Another area of concern identified is financial resources.
“Some people who are living on disability pensions and living in subsidized housing, those ones are finding a financial barrier to programs. We haven’t come up with solutions for any of it yet.”
What type of programs should be offered and to who is another area being looked into.
“Right now we program for adults for the most part,” said Wallace, adding the district is looking at programs geared specifically for seniors. “That’s a big question that we’re trying to tackle, how do we program from 19 years to 109 years?”
She said local parks and the trails system have generated mainly positive feedback, with some suggestions for more washrooms or better signage. The strategy is also looking at accessibility issues.
“For example, getting into a pool, which ones are the easier ones for people to get into, and what makes it easier for them?”
Wallace said much of the issue is making people aware of what’s available. “A lot of things that people are asking for, to be totally honest, a lot of it is already there but they aren’t aware of it.”
She also points to Cordova Bay 55-Plus, Goward House, Les Passmore Centre Silver Threads, Saanich Volunteer Services Society and VIHA Hillside Seniors Health Centre. “Sometimes it’s making them aware that those centres are out there too and they can access those ones if they aren’t close to a rec centre or if they don’t like going to a rec centre.”
Once the public consultation process wraps up at the end of October, Wallace expects it will take several months to sift through all the data before putting together a report with recommendations and goals that she hopes would make it before Saanich council in June 2017.