Age friendly

From left, MPP Michael Gravelle, Rebecca Johnson, chair of Age Friendly Thunder Bay, and Marie Klassen, director of services at Lakehead Social Planning Council, celebrate Age Friendly receiving a provincial grant on Wednesday..

Thunder Bay has an aging population and how the community is going to address that is a question Rebecca Johnson hopes a new action plan can answer.

Age Friendly Thunder Bay’s steering committee received a $50,000 grant from the Ontario government on Wednesday to create a community-wide, age-friendly action plan.

It’s a grant that Johnson, chair of the steering committee, said will allow the volunteer group to hire a consultant to develop a five-year plan to make the community more age-friendly.

“Our population is aging and how do we address the needs,” said Johnson.

The top issues for seniors include transportation, safety and poverty, but the No. 1 concern is social housing, said Johnson.

“Many senior residents unfortunately go through their money and don’t have enough money to actually house themselves at a certain point of time let alone feed themselves,” she said.

Their needs are different than other segments of the population.

“They have various modes of transportation,” Johnson said. “Some have more money, some have less money. They want different activities. We have to really look and figure out what it is that seniors in our community want.”

After an initial draft of the plan is ready, the committee will hold a public input session sometime next year.

From there, the final plan will be put together and implemented in coordination with the five-year Age Friendly City Services Action Plan, which was adopted on June 22.

That plan relates to age-friendly initiatives solely within the city’s responsibility.

“I think a year from now in 2016, we will have a very good handle on where we’re going to be moving this forward to,” said Johnson.

In addition to Thunder Bay’s $50,000, the Township of Shuniah and City of Kenora both received a $25,000 age-friendly community planning grants and Greenstone received a $22,000 grant.

MPP Michael Gravelle (Lib. Thunder Bay-Superior North) said the province recognizes Northwestern Ontario has an aging society.

“The demographics are changing dramatically and we now have a population recently of people who are moving towards retirement or living in retirement age and who have a great deal to offer their communities and the province,” he said. “We think it’s important to make sure that it is a priority to be as age friendly as possible, which means to make sure there is the maximum amount of physical and social inclusion for people who are seniors or about to become seniors in our society.”

Age Friendly Thunder Bay was formed in 2009 and is comprised of members from city council, the Centre for Research and Education on Aging and Health and more than 20 recreational, social and health-care organizations.

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