Thoughts and input from Powell River’s seniors will be sought during a community engagement session planned for this month.
On Thursday, October 17, an event called Planning for a Community Where Seniors Flourish will be held at Powell River Recreation Complex, between 11 am and 2:30 pm, in the Arbutus and Cedar rooms, in conjunction with the monthly Seniors Together event. According to Christine Parsons, health and fitness coordinator at the recreation complex, the community engagement event will have a focus of reconnecting with seniors from across the region and try to understand the needs of seniors in the community.
Parsons said there was a similar engagement workshop a couple of years ago when the city received its first age-friendly grants to look into seniors issues.
“We engaged with seniors from across the region and used the information to put our age-friendly community plan together,” said Parsons. “We’ve been working extensively on the age-friendly community plan and putting things into action from that plan over the last two to three years.”
The coming community engagement event will be a forum with roundtable engagements. It is called a world café style. There will be hosts at each table and hosts will engage people sitting at the table in activities that will be carried out during the workshop.
Parsons said each table will go through the activities that the organizers are asking them to do. There will be questions such as what is being done well for seniors in the community currently. There will also be a discussion about what areas need improvement, such as if there are gaps in services. The needs of seniors will also be a topic for discussion, as will how to put that in action.
“Those will essentially be the three steps guiding the seniors through,” said Parsons.
Christien Kaaij from Alof!i Consultancy is the facilitator for the event. Parsons said because the session will be taking place in a large space and seniors also have trouble hearing, the desire was to bring it down to smaller engagements, so that’s why the seniors community council plus some volunteers from the community have stepped up to act as hosts at each table.
Parsons said the hope is that there will be strong representation from seniors from across the region, and also from organizations that specifically offer services for seniors.
“We’ve sent out some invitations,” said Parsons. “We’re hoping we haven’t missed anybody so we’re hoping to get the word out.”
Parsons said organizers ask that participants preregister ahead of time. Registration can be conducted by phoning the recreation complex at 604.485.2891 or registering in person.
“It’s absolutely free but we need a head count,” said Parsons. “There is a catered lunch.”
There is space for up to 140 people.
Parsons said organizers have not identified a specific age for qualification as a senior.
“When we started our age-friendly work, we decided, as a committee, that it’s open to anyone who identifies themselves as a senior,” she added.
As an outcome, the seniors community council will take the information collected from the report Kaaij puts together and will be looking at applying it to its strategic plan and action plan over the next couple of years.
“This is one of their ways of really tapping into the seniors and hearing what the seniors in our region want or need to be addressed,” said Parsons. “We are hoping to get a wide range of seniors attending and organizations that work with seniors as well.”
Parsons said with age-friendly communities, the direction is to keep seniors involved and active in the community, and also at home for longer. It also has an effect on the rest of the community.
“It’s a great initiative,” Parsons said. “I think the City of Powell River is thrilled to be involved with it.”
Parsons said seniors have support from the city, through the involvement of staff, but also from City of Powell River Council, such as the seniors portfolio held by councillor Jim Palm.
“Council has really bought into the idea that we need to support and address the needs of seniors in the community,” said Parsons. “It’s fabulous we have the support and we hope to continue doing some great work.”
Council chair Pam Kenny said the upcoming community engagement session was one of her organization’s goals and objectives for 2019/2020.
Kenny added that the expectation of the meeting is to find out issues from seniors and identify gaps in services.
“Are we on the right track? Things have changed in the past two years,” said Kenny. “The demographics have changed drastically.
“At that time, 26 per cent of the population of the Powell River region were seniors above 65 years old and now in in 2019 it’s 30 per cent. It’s projected to be about 35 per cent by 2025. So yes, we are hoping for a whole gamut of information. It will help us to plan our future goals and objectives for the next couple of years using this information from the engagement meeting.”
Kenny said the primary function of the seniors council is to advocate for seniors. The seniors council is a volunteer community group comprised of seniors whose aim it is to empower and advocate for seniors throughout the Powell River region. The council is focused on advocating for systemic change that will enhance the age-friendliness of the community.
“Our vision is a community where seniors flourish, which explains the title of our community engagement,” said Kenny.
The engagement meeting will help the seniors council to determine where it is going to focus its advocacy and energy in the next couple of years. The meeting is an opportunity for people identifying as seniors to have input into an important process.
“It’s them who we are working for,” said Kenny, “so that’s what we want to hear, what their needs and concerns are.”