Report outlines plan for more elder-friendly city

By Sean Trembath, The StarPhoenix January 13, 2014 - There are many ways Saskatoon could become a better place for its older citizens, according to a new report. On Friday, the Saskatoon Council on Aging released a report - the second phase of a multi-year initiative by the SCOA - containing 67 recommendations touching on a range of topics including health care, transportation and employment. The SCOA gathered input from more than 500 people and many community organizations to come up with the list of recommendations.

"What we heard from older adults is Saskatoon is a great place to live, particularly in the summer months. It's not so age-friendly in the winter - and we're a winter city," Candice Skrapek, cochair of the initiative, said.

Some of the recommendations are broad, such as one asking the city to "work across sectors to develop universally accessible and economically sustainable housing options." Others, like one asking for agefriendly training for police, firefighters and other first responders in the city, are more specific.

Each suggestion also lists which agencies - the city, the province, even the SCOA itself - should be involved.

"There are a lot of well intentioned efforts going on in the city, whether it's at the civic level, volunteer organizations, and so on, but very little co-ordination of these efforts," Vera Pezer, former chancellor of the University of Saskatchewan and a current SCOA board member, said.

"SCOA sees as one of its main responsibilities to get all these areas onside, and understanding what each other do in an effort to begin to streamline better. It means less duplication of resources, whether financial or human."

The report cites City of Saskatoon statistics projecting that by 2032, 20 per cent of the local population will be over 65.

The SCOA's suggestions will be presented to the city's planning and operations committee on Tuesday. Councillor Mairin Loewen, who sits on the committee, said many of the suggestions in the report echo what she has heard from the SCOA and residents for some time.

"This certainly reiterates those priorities and gives a clear road map of what we can work on to improve quality of life for older adults in Saskatoon," Loewen said.

She said a lot of the recommendations, if enacted, would benefit more than just the older people in the city.

"The concept of designing a city that's friendly from eight to 80 is one that came to mind," she said.

"If you design a city that works well for older adults, it will also work well for children, or for anyone, so I think taking a close look at these recommendations will yield good results for all citizens."

What was recommended

SCOA's report contains 67 recommendations for how to make Saskatoon more age-friendly. Some highlights:

- Implementation of "universal design concepts" to be used in future construction in the city. For example, Vancouver recently announced a ban on round doorknobs in new buildings.

- Mandatory training for police, firefighters and EMS on the unique needs of older people.

- A variety of recommendations for public transit, including discount passes, free rides for attendants, talking buses, lifts and better ice management at stops.

- A change to the K-12 curriculum to include ageism in discussions about the harms of discrimination.

- Several points aimed at reintegrating older people into the workforce, including low-cost retraining, support for older entrepreneurs, and a campaign promoting the benefits of older employees.

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