An international expert on age-friendly communities will help get the ball rolling in Gibsons to develop a community action plan for the town.
Dr. Elaine Gallager, director of the Centre on Aging at the University of Victoria, will lead a public forum on Thursday, Sept. 27 at Christ the King Church, 287 Gower Point Road. The forum will have a strong focus on senior issues, but all ages are invited, Gallagher said in an interview.
“If you’ve got people with different ages represented there… you can get their input upfront,” she said. “We’ve taken the tack that we start with older people and quite often they have the same issues as people with disabilities and others in the community. It’s just that seniors were off the radar for so long.”
After doing research on remote and rural communities for the World Health Organization (WHO), Gallagher was contracted by the province and the Union of British Columbia Municipalities to lead the age-friendly planning process in about 30 B.C. communities.
She has now compiled an inventory of 262 interventions culled from that experience.
Sometimes the needs are obvious, she said.
“In Alert Bay, people didn’t know where to call for their pension, or where the seniors met. Within a week (of the session) they developed a guide for seniors. Some of these are quick-fix things,” she said.
The Gibsons session will open with a short summary of age-friendly issues that have already been identified by residents. Gallagher will then go through key areas identified by the WHO. These include outdoor spaces and public buildings, transportation, housing, communication and information gathering, health and community services.
“We’re not looking for solutions but getting quite specific about issues,” she said, adding that health is usually left to the end. “If you talk about health too early, some people don’t move on.”
In a follow-up session with steering committee members later in the day, Gallagher will present examples from other municipalities that have gone through the process.
“I’ve got example after example of creative things communities have come up with.”
The two-hour public forum starts at 1 p.m. and Gallagher expects the public will warm up quickly to the theme.
“Generally you don’t need a lot of prompting – people tweak on pretty quickly. It hits them where they live.”