The priorities for the Age-Friendly Orillia advisory committee are becoming clearer now that consultations have taken place.
Committee co-chairs Louise Cohen and Valerie Powell provided an update to city council this week, stating they are now in the “visualize and ideate” phase of their plan.
That means the committee will compile the feedback it has received, propose next steps and eventually hold a community workshop to gather further input.
Consultation with residents and others has indicated a desire to see more housing choices that are affordable, accessible and supportive, as well as improved accessibility on sidewalks, equitable access to health-care services and more awareness of transit options.
Age-Friendly Orillia’s work includes a focus on social participation and inclusion, and the COVID-19 pandemic has led to issues of isolation for many, including seniors, noted Coun. Ted Emond.
He said his work with the city’s economic recovery task force has made him “very much aware of the negative impact of the pandemic through the closing down of our economy and asking our residents to stay at home.”
“I’m seeing a hesitancy on the part of many of our citizens to re-enter the socialization that we have traditionally offered,” he said before asking if the Age-Friendly Orillia advisory committee was taking that into consideration in its work.
“Isolation is something that’s recognized all around the world as a major issue, not just as a result of the pandemic, but typically occurring as people age,” Cohen said.
Even before the pandemic, it was determined social isolation would be a focus because it had already been identified as an issue, Powell added.
Isolation is a problem faced by youth, too, she said. That’s why the Age-Friendly Orillia plan is “intended to be age friendly for all ages.”
Coun. Jay Fallis asked how technology played a role in the plan.
Some steps are already being taken. Marcia Russell, the city’s manager of recreation services, said the city is applying for a grant, in conjunction with the Orillia Public Library, to expand initiatives that allow seniors access to technology.
The library currently provides access to devices such as iPads and trains seniors to use them.
Cohen said the plan will be drafted this month and in October. It will be presented during a virtual public workshop scheduled for Nov. 9 at 7 p.m. The goal is to present the final report and action plan to council in January.