Midland council lauds age-friendly plan, but wants attention paid to both ends of spectrum

Elected officials this week welcomed the plan presented by Jodi Ball, director of J Consulting Group, but asked her questions around incorporating age-friendly aspects for youth, too.

“A lot of the age-friendly planning caters toward aging in place and seniors, but did we overlook the youth component?” asked Coun. Jon Main. “How can we do more on that and is there a component in the plan?”

Ball said she agreed that age-friendly planning focuses on all ages, however, for the purpose of this study initiated by the Midland Seniors Council, she followed the World Health Organization’s (WHO) eight dimensions of community life that can be made more age-friendly.

“The philosophy is that if we plan for our seniors and people with mobility issues, we will plan for all ages,” she said. “This process targeted our population over the age of 50. There are communities that are doing specific youth planning.”

Mayor Stewart Strathearn was also interested in the youth aspect of age-friendly communities.

“We have a number of organizations within the town, external to the town, that have been reasonably successful in engaging young people from different portions of age groups,” he said. “I’m wondering whether you see any examples of where municipalities would pull them in in a unifying group or committee to look at the gaps?”

Ball said she wasn’t sure and wasn’t aware of any such groups, but that it could be done as has been done in other municipalities.

Cher Cunningham, who is a member of the Midland Seniors Council, asked how communications could be improved so more seniors are aware of services that are available in the area.

Ball said the seniors’ group has already built some momentum in the community with this study.

“We have created more awareness of age-friendly planning,” she said. “Some of the things, initially, we’ve done is to create a (website) landing page. If we can connect people with services, that would be a win.”

One of the recommendations in the report is to either hire a part-time coordinator or use staff time to implement the more than 40 actionable items, said Ball.

“We were talking about content for a website,” she added. “Maybe that’s something the coordinator could do.”

Some of the recommendations include an assessment of all public buildings to increase compliance with accessibility rules, evaluate and enhance a sidewalk winter maintenance program, increase transportation options within the area, provide more affordable housing options for seniors living on fixed and low incomes, and increase communication around events and programs to give seniors the opportunity to fully participate in civic and social events.
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