Saskatoon’s civic administration now puts more emphasis on engaging older adults and the agencies that serve them as a result of an “age-friendly” initiative, according to a city official.
“When we design and develop neighbourhoods, when we provide parks, recreation, cultural kinds of programs and services, we make sure that we are talking to the older adults,” Lynne Lacroix, the city’s director of recreation and community development, said in an interview Monday.
Lacriox said the approach was ushered in by findings from the Saskatoon Council on Aging’s (SCOA) “Age-Friendly Saskatoon Initiative.” The effort began in 2011 and aims to bring the voices of older adults to those that are creating the policies and programs designed to address their needs.
“We wanted to really work more on raising awareness about the independence of older adults, the contributions that they make in the community, how they want to have a good quality of life,” Candace Skrapek, the Age-Friendly Saskatoon Initiative co-chair, said Monday.
Skrapek said the initiative began as a research project based on the World Health Organization’s “Age-Friendly Cities” model.
“It seemed to be a good way to address many of the very broad issues that impact older adults in the community,” Skrapek said of the initiative.
“Typically, when you start talking to people about older adults they often kind of think about frail, elderly people and that’s not the whole population.”
Skrapek said SCOA engaged Saskatoon’s older adult population on issues like transportation and housing, “to hear from them about what they thought the solutions were.” One of the outcomes was SCOA’s seniors’ globe walk program, which calculates each participant’s steps and aims to achieve the goal of reaching a certain distance.
“That came out of older adults saying to us that they wanted to remain as active as possible, but doing that in the winter months was very challenging,” Skrapek said.
The program divides participants into teams and designated captains calculate the total number of steps taken by group members. Skrapek said the program allows older adults to connect with each other and encourages them to be active even during the winter months.
“This is one way that people can stay active and stay focused,” Elliot PausJenssen, a globe walk team captain, said.
“We all want to stay healthy and independent and when you’re older you have to make a little more effort.”