Are we age friendly?

Lorne Stelmach

By Lorne Stelmach

Our world is aging, and a provincial initiative is aiming to make Manitoba the most age-friendly province in Canada.

Officials see the Age-Friendly Manitoba initiative as a means to support seniors in leading active, socially engaged, independent lives that will contribute to healthy aging.

It ties into a program spearheaded through the World Health Organization, with participation from the Public Health Agency of Canada.

Manitoba has partnered with the Association of Manitoba Municipalities, Manitoba Chambers of Commerce, seniors organizations and the University of Manitoba's Centre on Aging. Other partners include community leaders, faith leaders, service providers and other public officials.

Manitoba is working with these organizations to create age-friendly communities that will contribute to the participation, health, independence and security of older persons, and the Town of Morden is now on board with the initiative as well.

To get started, local organizers are holding a community consultation meeting next week to start building grassroots support for the program.

"It's a good idea, and we could use public input," said Morden town councillor Maurice Butler, who is helping spearhead the May 12 meeting at the Morden Friendship Centre starting at 7 p.m.

Butler observed the importance of this initiative, given how Manitoba's population of seniors is growing.

It is expected to increase by 43 per cent over the next 20 years. And of the seniors currently living in Manitoba, 93 per cent still live in the community rather than in institutions.

With the increase in the number of seniors, communities will face both new opportunities and challenges in responding to their needs and desires.

The initiative emphasizes eight key areas for focus:

- outdoor space and buildings;

- transportation;

- housing;

- respect and social inclusion;

- social participation;

- communication and information;

- civic participation and employment;

- community support and health services

The program toutes the characteristics of an age-friendly community as one that:

-- recognizes the diversity among older Manitobans

-- encourages healthy, active aging

-- supports the contributions of older Manitobans

-- promotes the participation of older Manitobans in all aspects of our community

-- engages stakeholders in building age-friendly communities

-- creates accessible, safe environments for older adults

-- treats people of all ages with respect

Butler said they are hoping to have a wide range of representation from the community to spearhead the initiative locally - seniors, local government, health care reps., local business people and other community volunteers.

If interested in participating or more information, contact Pat Plett at the Morden Friendship Centre at 822-3555.