News from the Seniors Community Planning Table

It was a full house at last month’s Seniors Community Planning Table – West End Meeting at Gordon Neighbourhood House (GNH), where the following topics were covered:

Vancouver Public Space Network

Simon Jay, a volunteer with Vancouver Public Space Network (VPSN) explained that VPSN is interested in making public space accessible and enjoyable for everyone. However, he noted that in the past, seniors’ viewpoints were often missing. So VPSN was now specifically interested in running a project to find out from as many seniors as possible, what makes public space work for them?

A lively discussion followed on a range of public space issues affecting seniors including impacts of bicycles on sidewalks; appropriate seating (e.g. benches with backs); lighting and protection from the elements; and creating spaces that feel safe and encourage seniors to get out.

We also learned from one participant that in the UK, coordinated activities, such as chair-based exercises, are run in public spaces. These initiatives are highly effective in improving people’s confidence to get out and use public space. Often, if isolated seniors get used to participating this way, they will then start using spaces independently leading to improved well -being.

Simon’s call for 3-4 West End seniors to volunteer and help him with further dialogue sessions and in promoting this work was met with enthusiastic responses.

Discussion then continued around the rerouting of buses in the West End and the impacts of this on seniors’ mobility. You can follow links here if you are interested in reading some recent updates about downtown transportation issues.

SFU Seniors Lifelong Learning Society

Scott Ricker from the SFU Seniors Lifelong Learning Society shared information about the wide range of courses SFU Continuing Studies offers through its Adults 55+ programming. Currently, over 1900 people are registered. The Society also does a lot of outreach work at Carnegie Centre and with First Nations. In addition, they sponsor free forums on amazing topics on designated Saturdays in the fall and winter. New downtown courses (about $104/course) start in September, with financial assistance available in some cases for individuals experiencing financial hardship. New course catalogues will be out this summer and more information is available online.

Community News

Plans were discussed for marking World Wide Awareness Day for Elder Abuse, June 15, with activities along Denman Street. A key activity was to raise community awareness through distributing purple ribbons, the symbol for this critical issue. The many people whose efforts helped moved this project along were honored, including Tanja Truelson, and Maureen Hallam, who consistently drove Tanja to craft shops to get purple ribbon supplies. A huge thanks for this community initiative, which could only happen through the dedication of several volunteers!

Tony Tang, City of Vancouver Councillor, also presented highlights from Vancouver’s first action plan for seniors, the Age Friendly Action Plan. A discussion followed on initiatives such as “dementia friendly” communities (examples from the UK were once more mentioned); and ways to make ALL community members, including front-line City workers, aware of dementia-related issues.

Finally, there was an update by Central Presbyterian Church members, regarding their housing development plans.

The meeting was complemented by the generous donation of snacks from Whole Foods.

Written by Community Journalist/GNH Blogger Anita Miettunen