By: Robert Kirwan, councillor for Ward 5
This year marks the 32nd anniversary of Seniors Month in Ontario. It is a month dedicated to celebrating and recognizing the important role older adults play in our community.
This year’s theme is, quite appropriately, “Seniors Making a Difference.”
When it comes to Greater Sudbury, there is no question about the contributions our 26,000 older adults 65 years of age and over have made to our growth as the capital city of Northern Ontario.
They now make up more than 21 per cent of the adult population of Greater Sudbury, and that percentage will be rising in the coming years, because more than 22,000 people are currently 55 to 64 years of age. It is also important to note that of this total, more than 70 per cent of older adults have lived in Greater Sudbury for more than 40 years, so they have indeed been directly responsible for how we have evolved as a city.
Mayor Brian Bigger will be proclaiming June 2016 as Seniors Month in Greater Sudbury, and when he does, he will be launching the start of a very important transition period for our city.
The Seniors Advisory Panel has appointed a special steering committee — comprised of representatives including older adults, grassroots organizations, service providers, municipal representatives and researchers — to begin working on an Age Friendly Community Plan for Greater Sudbury.
The steering committee will engage community members, build awareness towards age friendly priorities and actions, and support age friendly initiatives in Greater Sudbury.
The goal is to help the City of Greater Sudbury become a community where policies, services and physical spaces are designed to enable people of all ages to live in a secure and accessible physical and social environment. This will allow people to continue to participate fully in society throughout their lifetimes.
There will be numerous activities and events organized during the month of June, and we would encourage people of all ages to participate and show your support for the volunteers who are helping to raise awareness of the programs which will make our community more age friendly.
For example, World Elder Abuse Day is being held at the Minnow Lake Legion Hall on June 16 and most of the long-term care facilities in the city have special days scheduled.
The underlying theme behind efforts of the Seniors Advisory Panel in the coming years will not only be to help older adults themselves become more aware of programs that are available in the city, but also to facilitate strategies that will enable caregivers, such as the spouse/partner and children of older adults, to become more capable of providing support that will enable their loved ones to age at home in dignity and remain active in the community.
It is estimated 80 per cent of older adults who are 65 years of age and over live in a single-family dwelling, and close to 60 per cent of them live with a spouse or partner. Another 30 per cent live alone.
Virtually all older adults would rather age at home than in a long-term care facility. So the goal of the Seniors Advisory Panel is to work with city council, service providers and community organizations to put in place the foundation which will allow adults to enjoy the quality of life they so deserve while living in an age friendly community that respects their needs.
It is anticipated the next economic boom in Greater Sudbury will be fueled by older adults as the construction, health care, recreation, transportation and social services sectors accommodate their needs as they age. This will also generate many thousands of new jobs in those fields as trained professionals and service providers are needed to provide for those needs.
There is much to celebrate this year as we not only recognize the accomplishments and achievements of older adults in the past, but as we also understand how very important older adults are going to be to the future of the City of Greater Sudbury.
Robert Kirwan is the councillor for Ward 5 and co-chair of the Seniors’ Advisory Panel.