In 2013, the Ontario government announced an “Action Plan for Seniors,” informed by a report called “Living Longer, Living Well” by Dr. Samir Sinha, Director of Geriatrics at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto. Dr Sinha’s report focused on three principals: Healthy Seniors, Senior-Friendly Communities; and Safety and Security. As a side note, of particular relevance (at a time when a large percentage of the Covid-19 deaths in Ontario have occurred in Long Term Care Homes) are his recommendations related to Long Term Care - made seven years ago. You can find the report at Living Longer, Living Well (gov.on.ca)
The concept of “Senior-Friendly Communities” led the Provincial government to make funding available, under their Action Plan for Seniors, for communities to develop Age Friendly Community Plans. A partnership of SW Public Health, the City of St.Thomas and the County of Elgin received a grant to develop a plan for Elgin St. Thomas. Input was gathered from multiple providers and sources, including the PSVA. The plan was finalised in the Fall of 2017, then presented to various stakeholders including Central Elgin Council.
The final plan is included below.
Wendy MacMillan, one of our Board Directors, is a member of the Elgin St Thomas Age Friendly Community Advisory Committee. She represents Seniors and our community, now that the plan is in the implementation phase. The PSVA helped to organize an Age-Friendly Community Forum at the Port Stanley Legion in June 2017 - the flyer for this event is below. Wendy's involvement has also informed her role as the Chair of the PSVA Seniors Committee.
What is an Age-Friendly Community? At a high level, it is one where “policies, services and structures, related to physical and social environments, support and enable older people to live and age in place in a secure environment, enjoy good health, and continue to participate fully in their communities.”
Older people are typically classified by their functional abilities rather than arbitrary age groupings. Well and fit Seniors; Seniors requiring some assistance with activities of daily living; and Seniors requiring 24-hour support. One focus of an age-friendly strategy is maintaining Seniors in their present ability grouping and slowing down their transition to higher needs groups. In speaking to seniors in Port Stanley, we have heard over and over again their desire to live independently in their own home for as long as is practical. Supports of various kinds in the community help them to do that.
At a more detailed level, the Elgin St Thomas Age-Friendly Community Plan includes needs/goals for the following:
Housing – Appropriate seniors housing options, including affordable housing. Reduced wait times for long term care. Home maintenance supports, home care support and other strategies to help keep seniors in their homes and age in place. This has been a goal of the PSVA Seniors Committee, also formed in 2017.
Transportation – Intercommunity transit, shuttles, taxis, volunteers, car pooling. Access to medical appointments and recreation. Accessible parking. Use of telemedicine, outreach and other technologies to reduce the need for transportation.
Health Care – Community healthcare centres. Caregiver support, family involvement. Coordination between service providers. System navigation. Shorter wait times. Cost relief for hearing, dental and vision care. Mental health and dementia support. Palliative and hospice care.
Recreation – More walking/biking trails, dog parks, sports, social activities, education and entertainment. Community centres. More access to activities for rural areas. Transportation to venues.
Community Life – opportunities to be involved and feel valued, either work or volunteering. Community HUBS. Caring neighbours, churches and community organizations. Intergenerational activities. Local stores and services, preferably close by. Physical accessibility in the community, to buildings, outdoor spaces, for moving around and to stores and services. Safety and security.
The Age-Friendly Community Plan Steering Committee is coordinated by SW Public Health and involves a number of local organizations that provide services and support to seniors and other residents in our communities. Covid-19 became the priority for many in 2020 and we were not able to meet. The PSVA has kept in touch but looks forward to more active involvement again when the situation permits and plans to advocate for more age-friendly initiatives and support for seniors to age in place in Port Stanley.
Pages on this site about Seniors and Affordable Housing provide related information on this topic.