A new plan to make Orillia more age friendly is focusing on everything from transit subsidies and sidewalk maintenance to community gardens and workshops.
The Age-Friendly Orillia advisory committee presented its community action plan to city council Monday. It includes 27 “actions” that could be undertaken to help meet the needs of an aging population.
Seniors account for about 23 per cent of Orillia’s population, and that is expected to increase, said Jodi Ball, of J Consulting Group. That shows a need for “a shift in actions we take and how we think about age and aging,” she said.
The committee engaged with more than 460 people to help guide the action plan.
The team wants to see someone brought on as an age-friendly co-ordinator. That is “one of the more important” needs, Ball said, explaining that person could help oversee the implementation of the recommendations.
A complete list of recommended actions can be found at the bottom of this article.
Asked how council could help, committee co-chair Valerie Powell said endorsing and approving the plan would be a good start.
“It would make sense since the city is a partner,” she said.
She praised the city for increasing its efforts to provide senior-focused programming, but added “the problem is everything is not put through an age-friendly lens.”
“We don’t want to be complainers; we want to be your assistants and advocates.”
Council considered a motion that would direct staff to report back on the feasibility of implementing the recommendations. Instead, they voted to have staff report on ways to “instill age-friendly principles in city administration and operations.”
The recommendations included in the action plan are as follows:
- Through the direction of parks planning, ensure community parks, open spaces, and trails are accessible and encourage recreational and wellness opportunities for all ages.
- Identify opportunities to improve maintenance of sidewalks, multi-purpose trails, and driveways.
- Support the growth of community gardens that are accessible to all ages and abilities.
- Explore opportunities to provide a transit subsidy to residents in need.
- Work with community partners to promote and identify opportunities to increase alternative transportation modes such as ride sharing, volunteer drivers, Uber-style options, and other options to increase access to amenities and services by residents with special needs including mobility impairments.
- Develop a transit training program.
- Continue efforts to evaluate and improve overall pedestrian safety in the city.
- Ensure municipal policies support a range of housing forms that meet the diverse and changing needs of residents.
- Advocate for additional funding for affordable, transitional, and supportive housing.
- Explore opportunities for funding and community partnerships to pilot a HomeShare program in Orillia.
- Explore an opportunity to work with a community partner(s) to conduct an annual ‘Living Well at All Ages’ art exhibit.
- Engage and partner with community organizations to explore opportunities to expand and promote programming opportunities that support diverse needs of residents and older adults.
- Work with community partners to promote friendly-visiting programs.
- Expand age-friendly awareness among local businesses.
- Identify volunteer and employment opportunities and services.
- Support Lakehead University in taking steps to be an age-friendly university.
- Expand digital access and literacy among residents and seniors.
- Establish an online community service portal.
- Ensure communication and promotional materials create positive and inclusive images celebrating the city’s diversity.
- Create an age-friendly communications checklist.
- Host an Age-Friendly Expo.
- Re-establish a community and health service provider Coffee Time Network (Unity in the Community).
- Support community partners in efforts to increase in-home supports for seniors and people with disabilities.
- Co-ordinate and promote virtual learning workshop series.
- Establish a caregiver ‘Coffee Chat.’
- Continue to explore options to expand diversity of recreational program delivery through Seniors at Play.
- Co-ordinate a monthly ‘Seniors Together.’