FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – Results and findings of the Age-Friendly Assesment and Action Plan were presented to City Council.
Seniors are a growing segment of the population in Fort St. John, and with the findings of the Assessment and Action plan, these will provide a foundation for planning and decision making for Seniors programs and services in the future.
By using a framework assesment structure to look at both the physical and social environments for Seniors. The eight dimensions include; Housing, Transportation, Outdoor Spaces and Buildings, Community Support and Health Services, Social Participation, Civic Participation and Employment, Communication and Information, Respect and Social Inclusion.
By using the interviewing process of key members of the City such as Northern Health, The North Peace Seniors Housing Society, Save our Seniors and other groups not listed, gave their views on amenities and services offered to seniors in Fort St. John.
A physical walkthrough of the City was done by several of the members of the fore mentioned groups going to places most regularly used by seniors and assessed mobility barriers at each location. The third data collection tool was a survey of all residents of Fort St. John, 55 years and older, 118 responses to the survey were received.
Assets to the senior’s community are a range of groups and organizations that provide services to seniors. Seniors are advocating for themselves and using their political voice which is important in a community such as Fort St. John that has a younger demographic profile. There are facilities such as the Pomeroy where seniors can go to be active as well as senior-focused facilities that support healthy ageing such as the seniors Hall.
The barriers that can be an issue for ageing are a shortage of affordable housing and most noticeable in rental units. After a census in 2016, 44 percent of seniors who rent have inadequate or unsuitable shelter or the shelter costs that exceed 30 percent of their income. The Handy Dart was recognized as a vital part of transportation yet has limited hours and availability. Social media is becoming a barrier regarding communication for seniors as they may no longer be aware of upcoming events. As the Seniors Hall is an asset, it is only open two days a week which means limited opportunities for social participation. There was also a large emphasis for long waitlists with medical and health professionals as another barrier.
To make Fort St. John more age-friendly, recommendations were broken down into global recommendations such as;
• That the City of Fort St. John establish an Age-Friendly Advisory Committee
• That the City of Fort St. John review current and future policies and programs through an age-friendly lens
• That the City of Fort St. John develop and adopt universal design policies and bylaws for all new construction
Recommendations based off of the eight dimension-specific frameworks included;
• Continue to ensure that City communications employ a diverse range of strategies and tools to communicate with seniors, including traditional media, posters, social media, emails, and word of mouth.
• Work with community-nonprofit organizations and local media outlets to continue supporting the development of routine seniors communication tools.
• Work with the Fort St. John Public Library and Northern Lights College
to continue developing and offering social media training for older residents.