By Dave Flaherty/The Oshawa Express
A strategy is officially in place to help Oshawa become a friendlier location for seniors 55 and older.
City council and the Oshawa Senior Community Centres (OSCC55+) recently endorsed the Oshawa Age-Friendly Strategy.
The two organizations began working on the strategy last fall, according to the city’s director of innovation and transformation Julie MacIsaac.
In addition to the strategy, the city and OSCC55+ will apply to the World Health Organization (WHO) for designation as an “age-friendly city.”
In 2006, the WHO developed the Global Age-Friendly Cities Project, aimed at bringing together cities from around the world interested in becoming more age-friendly.
The strategy will provide a framework for the city and OSCC55+ to create physical and social environments that support independent and active living, and allows older adults to contribute in all aspects of life.
The document includes 68 action items centred on eight age-friendly “dimensions” including outdoor spaces and buildings, transportation, housing, social participation, respect and inclusion, civic participation and employment, communication and information, and community and health services.
“We want to put an age-friendly lens on everything we do,” MacIsaac told The Oshawa Express.
With the population of seniors expected to increase significantly over the next 10 to 15 years, MacIsaac notes the strategy is even more valuable moving forward.
“Our goal is to meet the needs of our population, and it’s important to meet all those needs,” she says.
MacIsaac says a designation from the WHO will provide an opportunity for partnerships and exchanging of ideas with other like-minded communities.
Sandy Black, OSCC55+ executive director, explains local seniors played a vital role in the development of the strategy.
“It engages older adults living in the community to identify what would assist them in terms of their lifestyle to better address their needs as they age,” she said.
“There was an extensive community engagement phase. We didn’t just speak to OSCC55+ clients, but the community at large,” Black adds. “[Older adults] don’t hesitate to offer opinions. They answer very candidly with their opinions of where they work, play, and live, and offer honest suggestions for improvement.”
Black believes Oshawa already is a welcoming community for seniors.
“They do feel very involved and engaged in not just social activities, but in terms of their physical space, they feel the community offers them a lot of variety,” she says. “A lot of seniors come to Oshawa because we are doing a very good job of creating a community where seniors will feel safe, engaged, and where they will thrive.”
To Black, the implementation of the strategy is an end result both OSCC55+ and the city can be very proud of, “because it truly was a collaboration.”
Ward 4 city councillor Derek Giberson, also vice-chair of the community services committee, agrees.
“With our shifting age demographics, an Age-Friendly Strategy will help guide us in creating a more inclusive city where older adults can continue to participate in and shape our community for years to come,” said Giberson.
The full strategy can be viewed at https://www.oshawa.ca/city-hall/resources/2019-Oshawa-Age-Friendly-Strategy.pdf