Diane Stonehocker presented the report “Creating an Age-Friendly Cold Lake” to Cold Lake city council on August 11.

The report is the fulfillment of a project funded by the Alberta government’s Aging Well in Community grant and conducted by Cold Lake and District Family and Community Services Society (FCSS). 

According to the report, the project had two objectives: “to engage community residents of all ages in conversations that would challenge the prevailing negative stereotype about getting older”; and “to gain from those conversations information that would be used to identify needed changes to the community infrastructure, services, and supports.”

The presentation did not designate specific projects or ask for funding. Instead, it invited council to participate in planning initiatives and keep the aging population in mind when considering how to make the community better for everyone.

“I want them to get a vision of Cold Lake as an age-friendly community and the desire to move forward in reaching that vision,” Stonehocker said. “I would like them to establish some level of formal commitment to the process. I gave them four kind of things there that they could do and clearly, we’re going to eat away at each of those things over time.”

The report’s recommendations to council were grouped in four major areas: commit to organizational awareness and planning; facilitate a coordinated community approach to planning; encourage community awareness; and make application to be formally recognized as an Age-Friendly Community.

Each area had specific recommendations.

While Cold Lake’s most recent census shows a “senior” population of just six per cent, Stonehocker says that number is likely to grow—or it should, if the community can keep its citizens here as they age. And she said that the much talked-about wave of baby boomers is coming not just with increased numbers, but with higher expectations for their quality of life as they grow older.

“The mayor mentioned we lose them at 55 to 65. They leave town. Well, some of that is weather related. I talked to some who said ‘I’m going where it’s warmer,’ and there’s nothing anybody can do about that. And some of them are following their grandchildren around, that’s true. But some of them are looking around thinking ‘I’m going somewhere where there’s more to offer,’” Stonehocker said.

The project based its research on eight domains as described by the World Health Organization:

• Outdoor Spaces and Buildings 

• Transportation 

• Housing 

• Social Participation 

• Respect and Social Inclusion 

• Civic Participation and Employment 

• Communication and Information 

• Community Support and Health Services 

The report outlined some positives in each domain, but also pointed out important work needed to make the community truly age-friendly. For example, there is a need for more accessible infrastructure for people with disabilities, including some older people; it would be beneficial to have a wider variety of housing options; better training of healthcare staff to equip them to deal appropriately with older people; and more awareness that some older people need to, or choose to, continue working.

“An age-friendly community is also a disability-friendly community, a family-friendly community, a diversity-friendly community and has implications for all aspects of good municipal planning,” the report’s conclusion reads. “All planning is made better by recognition of the needs and interests of all a community’s residents, including its older people.”