Dave Price Seniors’ Needs Coordinator
It is with mixed feelings that I write this article.
When Gloria and I first viewed the town in 2003, we were struck by the fact that it was never built with seniors in mind.
There was, I believe, one elevator and few automatic doors. There were very few level entries (none on the houses) and no wheelchair ramps What handicapped parking existed was poorly located. Handicapped accessible washrooms were virtually non-existent. Sidewalks and curb cuts were poorly designed and in need of repair … the list went on.
Since the inception of the Seniors’ Task Force in 2008, it has been my privilege to be a part of making the changes that allow us all to age in place.
There were, and still are, many great volunteers who provided activities of interest to seniors and they are to be applauded for their efforts.
Groups like the Red Hats, Happy Hookers, the Quilting Guild, 49 Forever (and later, TROTS),the Interministerial Association, and the Lions Club (who were also largely responsible for the formation of the Task Force) ensured a variety of social experiences, and TR Cares was already providing a number of service supports for medical travel, etc.
After the Seniors’ Corner was established, through the efforts of the Task Force, more social activities were developed by the volunteer hosts and hostesses. This has allowed the Task Force to focus on more “big picture” items.
We now have regular air quality testing by the Ministry of the Environment to protect those with breathing issues. We have Meals on Wheels for those unable to prepare healthy, nutritious meals consistently. Sidewalks have been resurfaced, ramps installed, and handicapped washrooms available in many locations.
A large focus went into keeping people healthy, instead of treating them after they become ill. This is evidenced by the Seniors’ Fitness equipment, blood pressure testing, and the TRAIL program developed by Dr. Helm and Chuck Jensen which provides a pro-active approach where individuals are given a prescription for a fitness program at the Community Centre to delay, or prevent, the issues common to aging.
The group has worked with industry, Northern Health, BC Ambulance and various Ministries to improve service levels.
Currently, there is a large focus on improving our relationship with BC Housing in order to have more input into how people qualify for the Seniors’ Accessible housing—more focus on health and less on financial needs—and to look at local management of the units to ensure rapid response to problems.
Last fall, during the Official Community Plan process and subsequent by-law review, the Task Force had input into such items as by-laws to allow modifications to the front of houses for mobility and access purposes, eliminating the need for each and every request to go before the Board of Variance, and allowing for no-cost permits.
Airport improvements, more diligent commercial vehicle testing in the area, and connecting with outside agencies such as the Alzheimer’s’ Society are all part of a large number of other initiatives that the Task Force has been involved with.
It should be noted that, in 2010, the District was awarded the “Measuring Up the North” award for communities with under 5000 residents, recognizing the amazing amount of work done by the Task Force in guiding these changes.
Is there more to be done? Absolutely! Firstly, we need to ensure that the developed services are sustained and improved. We still need to develop an improved in-town transportation system for those unable to afford a taxi. We need to pressure BC Housing to provide more and better accessible housing options, and we need to ensure that, as more industry comes to our community, the seniors who saved the town during the mine shutdown are never forgotten, or ignored.
So….getting back to my mixed feelings. As I leave this position at the end of August, it’s time to slow down and I am happy (as is Gloria) that I don’t have to have my cell phone on 24/7. I feel that I’ve done what I can and it’s time that new blood, and new ideas are taking over the reins.
However; I am proud to have played a part in the changes, and I feel privileged to have worked with such a dedicated group for the past few years. They have been the most focused working group that I have ever known, and I thank them for their energy and support. I wish them well in all of their future endeavours.