Laurie Johnson has her hand taped up to simulate how difficult some door handles can be for the disabled or elderly. Information like this is something to be taken into account when building for seniors.

How can Lake Cowichan become age-friendly?

Public meeting draws residents to share their concerns.

Do you feel you can age in your own home? Is public transit adequate for you? Are businesses readily accessible for seniors? Are you treated with respect in your community? These are a few of the questions that the Town of Lake Cowichan is asking residents, in their pursuit to build Lake Cowichan into an age-friendly community.

A public meeting was held on May 23, in which the 50 residents were asked what they felt works well now, what they would like to see in the future, and what Lake Cowichan needs to be age-friendly.

Residents answered that the 50 Plus Activity Centre, level walking trails and healthcare were all working well for the community. As for the future, the top priorities appeared to be a live-in care facility for seniors, better access to exercise for seniors and a columbarium. Many residents also called for subsidized apartments and more advocacy for seniors.

James van Hemert, the town’s contract planner, also displayed how difficult some simple things, like using traditional door handles, can be for seniors with disabilities.

“We don’t normally think of things like that,” Laurie Johnson, a member of the emerging senior advocacy group, said. “I think the meeting really increased our awareness as a community.”

The City of Vancouver implemented a bylaw  in 2014 requiring new buildings to use accessible door handles, something that Johnson said may be something Lake Cowichan should work towards as well.

The next step in the age-friendly plan will be to undertake a mobility audit of the town, which will look at the width and level of sidewalks to ensure that they are accessible for those in scooters or wheelchairs, among other things.

In terms of mobility, the town is also planning on determining which businesses are accessible to seniors.

“Most businesses in Lake Cowichan are [accessible to seniors], it tooke me a while to think of a select few that aren’t,” Jonhson said. “I was happy to know that.”

In the coming months, Van Hemert will be preparing a detailed report on the state of Lake Cowichan, which the town hopes will aid them in their pursuit of grants to become more age-friendly.

While any upgrades would go a long way in improving the quality of life fore Lake Cowichan’s aging population, Johnson also pointed out that it could also be a boon to the town’s population.

“It would be phenomenal if the town of Lake Cowichan could be cradle-to-grave,” she said. “If we’re age-friendly, who wouldn’t want to retire here?”

For those who weren’t able to attend the meeting, the group is asking residents of all ages to fill out a 25-question survey online, which can be found on the Choose Cowichan Lake Facebook page.

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