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At any given moment around the City of Moncton, you’ll find seniors actively engaged in their community. Doing a triangle pose during yoga in the park. Volunteering at a public event. Sharing their wisdom on planning committees. Seniors are actively involved and respected for the valuable contributions they make. It’s a community where seniors aren’t just included – they’re integral to helping the city thrive!
The City of Moncton’s Senior Advisory Committee has been a big part of this. Moncton has adopted an approach that’s been internationally recognized. Their work on age-friendly initiatives hasn’t just benefitted seniors, but everyone in the community. For example, collaboration between the Committee and the Leisure Services Department means that parks and public spaces have more benches to provide rest for seniors, new exercisers and young families. Businesses certified as being ‘age-friendly’ have designated parking and handrails for seniors and persons with disabilities, and staff are trained in how to serve clients with visual or hearing impairments. Stores have wider hallways and automatic doors that are helpful to seniors but also accommodate strollers.
“We’ve been very, very fortunate,” says Flora Dell, long-time member of the Senior Advisory Committee. “The City of Moncton has been absolutely wonderful and supportive. Departments, like public safety, public works and recreation and transportation meet with us on a regular basis to look at things like snow removal, level sidewalks, more benches and rest places so that seniors can feel safe enough to be active in the community at all times of the year.”
Another partnership with Downtown Moncton Centre Ville Inc. led to 48 businesses being certified as age-friendly! These businesses now do things like hold staff training on how to serve clients with visual or hearing impairments, keep aisles free of packing materials, print larger signs with prices and product information and have designated seniors’ parking near the front doors. Businesses designated as being age-friendly receive a sign for their window, which is now a recognized symbol across the city.
The results are palpable. “People are out and about more,” notes Flora. “If your community builds an environment where your streets and sidewalks are safe and if you know that there’s a bench to rest on halfway along your walk to the store – it makes the environment more welcoming, not just for seniors but for young families, persons with disabilities, new exercisers and everyone else.”
Seniors aren’t just living safe, active lives, but they feel valued for what they bring to the community, like their energy, knowledge and experience. They feel included and considered in decisions. “We’re saying you’re part of our community. We want you to participate. We want you to communicate. And I think that’s happening,” says Flora.
Now you’ll find seniors working on the Enhancing Democracy and the Public Safety Advisory Committees or assisting at an event held by the Mayor’s Youth Committee. And the seniors are also the largest pool of volunteers who help keep important community events running smoothly.
The understanding that an age-friendly community would benefit both seniors and the community at large was the impetus for getting the Senior Advisory Committee started in 2004.
“When the mayor’s Senior Advisory Committee was established, we had a lot of seniors come forward to express what they would like us to accomplish and we reached out to them in numerous ways to help give them a voice,” notes Flora. Members of the Committee were chosen by the mayor to represent a cross-section of Moncton’s citizenry.
To better understand the needs of seniors in the community, the Committee partnered with Université de Moncton to do a research study. The information collected by this survey formed the foundation of the 5-year action plan the Committee presented to city council. Once the action plan was approved, the Committee took no time getting down to work.
From making sure the needs of vulnerable individuals are met, that the new downtown centre has senior-friendly seating, to symposiums on healthy aging, the Committee has been working hard to ensure that seniors are safe, healthy and included in their community. And the Committee’s hard work has paid off – in 2015, the City of Moncton was accepted into the World Health Organization’s global network of age-friendly cities! And despite many partnerships and collaborations to balance, the road has been relatively smooth.
“There has been so much cooperation between seniors and the different centres, like the Moncton Lions Community Centre and Crossman Community Centre, and city departments, like public safety, public works, recreation and transportation, that we’ve been able to accomplish so much in these years,” says Flora. “It’s really been encouraging. We feel really supported and it’s contributed to the well-being of all our citizens.”
Regardless of all their successes, the Committee knows there’s still work to be done and they’re motivated. They see how the work they’re doing isn’t just letting the strengths of seniors’ shine but also creating a healthier, more inclusive community for everyone!
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