The work to make Summerside, P.E.I. more inclusive for seniors is now being shared with other communities across the Island.
Since 2013, the Summerside Age Friendly Cities Committee has worked on improving aspects of city life for seniors, in areas including transportation, housing, and social participation.
Now in the final year of the five year program, the committee is focused on encouraging other communities to take steps to become more age friendly.
Committee co-chair Peter Holman says consultants were hired to do an assessment of the city.
“They went and looked at all aspects within the city, they looked at all our green spaces, they looked at the programming that was being offered for seniors as well as other generational individuals.”
Holman said they highlighted what the city was doing well, and areas that needed improvement.
One of the issues seniors have had in Summerside was transportation, something they are continuing to work on.
“It’s been a major issue in that we do have transportation but it’s not totally reliable,” Holman said.
“It’s very difficult for seniors to know where the buses are going to be, when they’re going to be there. The idea was if a senior wanted to catch a bus, if they were on a sidewalk, they were simply to wave to flag it down. Well that’s not really acceptable.”
City helped with improvements
When it came to the city’s green spaces, Holman said not all were age friendly. He added some had no benches for seniors to sit on or quiet areas where they could just sit and relax.
But Holman said the city has worked closely with the committee using the assessment as a guide to “improve all the areas where there were concerns noted.”
Holman said the issue with buses is being worked on and several meetings between the committee and the owner of the bus company have taken place.
The committee also worked with city businesses to become more age-friendly, setting a goal of signing up 20 businesses to take part.
“It turns out we were so successful that we signed up over 100 businesses and what we did is we hired senior mentors and trained them.”
The mentors visit businesses and assess how age-friendly it is, from having a chair for seniors to sit down, to how easily items can be reached on shelves, and suggest changes.
One of the common suggestions is keeping aisles clear of displays so seniors can navigate them and avoid tripping if using a walker.
“Most stores, that we had approached, never thought of it as being a hazard and they’ve made tremendous changes,” Holman said.
“We provided each business with a certificate of achievement for become age friendly.”
Businesses were also given decals to indicate it as an age-friendly business.
Spread the word
Holman said senior mentors are being sought Island-wide to help encourage their own communities to become age friendly.
“We want to spread that word.”
To do that, the committee is hosting a rally of communities at Credit Union Place Sept. 24 which will be followed by three town hall meetings in each county.
Holman said trained senior mentors will help seniors in other areas work to make age-friendly improvements in their own communities.