James Van Hemert moderating the Age-friendly Community Meeting at the Lake Cowichan 50+ Activity Centre on May 24. Van Hemert said that the public input received at the meeting had a huge impact on the framework of the upcoming action plan.

Age-friendly action plan taking shape after public consultation

Public meeting to be held at the 50+ Activity Centre on September 19.

The Town of Lake Cowichan’s age-friendly action plan has been coming together since the initiative was launched earlier this year. James Van Hemert, the town’s contract planner, is now preparing to present the first draft of the report to the public on September 19, following a consultation with the town’s senior advocacy committee.

A mobility audit was recently completed as a component of the action plan, which included walk-arounds of the town both on foot and on mobility scooters. Sidewalks, pathways, crossings, signage and street furniture, among other features, were all taken into account during the audit. The report will include several concerns in regards to the mobility of seniors and the disabled, such as the inaccessibility observed in certain businesses and public places, notably older buildings which did not have to comply with the same, newer BC Building Code standards that more recent construction has had to follow. Van Hemert referred to Lake Cowichan’s downtown as “a mixed bag.”

“There have been some very good improvements recently as far as things that would assist an aging population,” Van Hemert added.

Among those improvements, he noted the new sidewalks along South Shore Road as well as the more recent pathway that was added to Saywell Park.

May 23 saw a public meeting held at the 50+ Activity Centre, which allowed the 45 residents in attendance to express their concerns and hopes for the town in regards to becoming more age-friendly. Top priorities for residents included the introduction of a live-in care facility for seniors, better access to exercise equipment for seniors and a columbarium. Van Hemert also displayed to residents some of the overlooked difficulties presented to seniors with disabilities in everyday life, such as using traditional door handles.

An online survey was also released following the meeting, which asked residents questions such as “do you feel you can age in your own home?” “Are businesses readily accessible for seniors?” and “Are you treated with respect in your community?” The survey was filled out by 61 residents. Van Hemert said that the survey, along with the previous public meeting, helped establish the framework of the age-friendly action plan.

The first draft of the age-friendly action plan will be presented to the public at an open-house planned for September 19 at the 50+ Activity Centre.

“I expect for the most part that [the action plan] will be ready by then — we’ve had a lot of consultation with the committee,” Van Hemert said. “It’s very much in draft form, but there shouldn’t be any big surprises. It’s important for the community to have a look at it before it goes to town council.”

Van Hemert will also be conducting interviews with stakeholders in the action plan, such as the Kaatza Health Centre and Cowichan Lake Recreation, in the coming weeks.

For more information on this and other age-friendly initiatives in Lake Cowichan, check out the Choose Cowichan Lake page on Facebook.