Quesnel’s population is ageing and, as a result, we must proactively adapt our community’s infrastructure, amenities, and core programs to the needs of seniors. Some of the necessary adaptations we must undertake are within the control of the City alone or in partnership with the Cariboo Regional District through functions like North Cariboo Recreation or the Cariboo Chilcotin Regional Hospital District. Some of the improvements and supports we’ll need to better serve our seniors are entirely in the domain of the Provincial and Federal governments, and Council can only act as advocates for the changes we’ll need.
For example, creating more seniors’ supportive housing complexes and assisted living and long term care facilities is solely in the domain of the Provincial government. Council and the City of Quesnel are not in the housing business and we do not have the financial wherewithal to fund such facilities. However, Council is in continuous dialogue with Northern Health, BC Housing, and not for profit housing agencies to make the case for more housing options for seniors to be provided in our City. We have also put in place housing incentive bylaws to attract more investment (the Lions Club’s senior’s housing project was assisted financially by this bylaw) and we’re now looking at developable properties the City owns as opportunities to attract both private and public sector investment in seniors’ housing facilities.
The City has taken direct steps to accommodate the needs of seniors in our infrastructure programs as we attempt to make our community more accessible. The new downtown accessible washroom facility is a direct response to a long term lobby effort by seniors’ advocates. Council has also deliberately maintained funding for the end of driveway snow clearing program and increased the overall snow removal budget in order to maintain the highest possible standards of snow removal with our seniors in mind.
The North Cariboo Joint Planning Committee continues to fund the seniors walking program at the indoor soccer complex and the West Fraser Centre, and plans are in place to rubberize the walking track at the new arena to make it a more comfortable and accommodating walking surface for seniors using that facility. While accessibility was a key consideration in the design of the new arena, we are now taking feedback from the seniors’ community as to how we improve on the current design to better accommodate their needs and those improvements will be made as soon as possible.
Quesnel Council has been seeking ways to pull all these disparate initiatives together into a cogent and comprehensive plan to make our community age-friendly. Towards this end, a Standing Committee of Council was struck last year and it has been successful in obtaining two grants, one form the Province and one from the Federal government. The Provincial grant will enable us to develop a detailed strategy to address seniors’ health care and lifestyle needs in order to obtain an age-friendly designation from the Province (which makes our community eligible for ongoing grant funding). The Federal grant provides funding to update our seniors’ resource guide and to host a senior’s resource fair.
Ultimately, with a strategy and an updated resource guide in place, we hope that Council’s Standing Committee will move into a community-based Council for seniors that will become the champion for seniors in our community. With the ongoing help and advice of this Council, the City will continue to ensure we make the right investments to make Quesnel a community where people can be active and engaged in their senior years.