Grey Power 51 — June 26, 2014

John
John Fryters
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Part two of two

Did you read last week's Part One?  Maybe you should remind yourself -- free rides on city buses after you reach 65 if you are a municipal taxpayer! No not yet in Prince Albert, but in many other places around the world.

Free transit is only one of many perks municipalities offer seniors in Canada and around the world :

• the City of Toronto, Ont., offers FREE snow removal of sidewalks in front of properties owned by seniors over 65 (application needs to be completed);

• the Municipality of Torrance, Calif., offers FREE legal advice to seniors through its municipal legal department;

• started in 2012, the City of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan offers a Property Tax Deferral Program to help support low-income senior homeowners by providing an option to defer payment of future increases in municipal (city & library) property tax. The program is available to low-income senior citizens who own a single family home, townhouse, or apartment condominium in Saskatoon;

• the town of Ridgefield, Conn., provides deactivated cell phones capable of reaching 911 to seniors and people with disabilities to give them the ability to contact emergency services when they are not in their homes.  Both the phones and services are FREE;

• that same town of Ridgefield, Conn., recruits and trains volunteers and then matches them with seniors and disabled persons who need a companion to take them shopping;

• the city of Calgary offers many services for seniors including :

-- Inform Calgary Seniors Dictory -- it is an easy-to-use web-based database containing information about community, health and social services for seniors in Calgary

-- designated fire stations provide FREE blood pressure and cholesterol screenings to seniors;

• the municipality of Vernon, B.C., provides FREE engravers through its Community Policing Division to ensure that seniors can engrave their valuables to deter theft; and

• the City of Regina, through its Seniors Citizen's Centre, provides FREE (or very low cost) programs such as exercises, cribbage, bridge, social dancing with live bands, shuffleboard, snooker, choir, creative writing, pen and ink art, painting, ceramics, computer classes and other.

This was just a very, very small small sample ... Municipalities across the globe are starting to understand the fact that the seniors segment of the overall population (65 years of age and older) is growing dramatically.  Estimates range from 25 per cent to 30 per cent depending on the geographic location.  Moreover, smart politicians understand that this 25-30 per cent voter block can no longer be ignored.

That voter block is also becoming more and more sophisticated. 

Towards the end of last decade, the City of Regina, as well as many other cities in Canada, started to just realize that and consequently participated in a massive study conducted by the University of Toronto.  The Saskatchewan portion of this study was called “Improving the Quality of Life of Saskatchewan Seniors.”  The overall objectives of this study were :

• to identify factors that affect seniors' quality of life;

• to develop an action plan outlining changes to municipal, provincial and federal government policy that would enhance the quality of life of Saskatchewan (Regina) seniors and actions that community groups can take for the same purpose; and

• to develop resource materials describing activities that individual seniors and seniors' groups can undertake to enhance the qualify of life of Saskatchewan (Regina) seniors.

On May 1, Prince Albert Mayor Greg Dionne, announced another possible major development for a 94 senior resident condominium building in the city  (Prince Albert Daily Herald -- May 2, 2014) -- one of quite a few in the last two decades.  And yes developments such as this are good for local economic development.  They are even good for seniors -- providing more options available for them in the housing market. 

However, any such development should be part of an overall strategic social development plan which deals not only with the overall economic spinoffs, the potential increase of municipal tax revenues, but also with the social and health aspects directly linked to the dramatic increase of the number of seniors in the city. 

The efforts in the 2014 municipal budget are not indicative of such strategic social planning at the municipal level. Offering free (or low cost) skating and walking with some assistance towards transportation/transit for seniors comes far short of meeting the true needs of seniors in this city.

So, here are some suggested steps :

• let's go back into the municipal planning department archives to see if a strategic social plan exists.  If it does, let's review and update it with the direct input by seniors in the city.  • It it doesn't, let's develop one with the direct input by seniors in the city.

once it is updated or developed, let all municipal decisions be filtered through that strategic plan (after all, more than 25 per cent or one-quarter of the population are senior citizens)

• let us, seniors, start organizing formally to meet these challenges and to make sure that our elected officials, at all levels of government, do not continue to ignore us.

Please understand the “Power” in “Grey Power!”

 

John Fryters is a 65-year-old senior citizen who is concerned about those in his peer group.  He provides information for and about seniors, as well as advocacy services for seniors through this weekly column.  He can be reached at john_fryters@yahoo.com

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