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Region prepares for an aging population

By Graeme McNaughton/The Oshawa Express

The Region of Durham has released its strategy to make the area friendlier to its older residents, the number of which is expected to grow in years to come.

The recently released Age-Friendly Durham Strategy and Action Plan, endorsed by regional council, will lay the foundations for making the region and its municipalities “help ensure that decision-making reflects and responds to the needs and lived experience of older adults.”

And with a growing number of Baby Boomers getting older, the region is set to be made up of more and more older residents. Currently, 24.1 per cent of Durham’s population is aged 55 or older. By 2031, that number is expected to be closer to one third, or higher than the expected national rate for that time of one quarter.

The next steps for this initiative will see the creation of a Durham Council on Aging that will guide the implementation of the strategy’s recommendations, as well as apply for grant applications to help put those recommendations into effect.

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Recommendations from the Age-Friendly Durham Strategy and Action Plan – the highlights

Immediate plans

  • encourage businesses to provide more accessible entries for stores and offices
  • speeding up snow removal at intersections and bus stops
  • work with Metrolinx to improve accessibility at GO bus and train stations, expand services
  • install next-stop digital signs on region’s buses
  • develop inter-regional transit routes to Orillia, Newmarket, Lindsay and Keswick
  • educate transit and taxi drivers on needs of older adults
  • provide additional waste management options, such as free large item pick-ups or roadside collection of hazardous items, for older adults who can’t bring them to waste depots
  • consider offering free admission for older adults for community events
  • increase awareness of available resources on healthy aging, disease prevention, fall prevention and other related programs

Future plans

  • increase number of accessible parking spaces at regional facilities
  • encourage larger font sizes and numbers for street signs and buildings
  • put more benches and rest spots on trails and public spaces
  • strengthen traffic enforcement efforts for road safety
  • develop an orientation program to familiarize transit users with existing, new or expanding routes, PRESTO cards, specialized transit and other available options
  • consider making public transit free or low cost for older adults and those with limited incomes
  • increase education on home ownership assistance programs
  • increase the number of affordable housing units for older adults
  • develop more volunteer options for older adults
  • enhance education and training for those working with older adults
  • develop a program that addresses stereotypes about age, disabilities, dementia
  • create greater awareness of elder abuse
  • help create more employment options for older workers