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Date: October 01, 2007

Saanich Seniors Have a Say in Age-Friendly Cities Guide

SAANICH – An international guide that sets out a vision for age-friendly communities around the world was released today, along with $500,000 provincial funding to enhance age-friendly planning, announced Ida Chong, Minister of Community Services and Minister responsible for Seniors’ and Women’s Issues.

The District of Saanich participated in the World Health Organization’s Global Age-Friendly Cities Project, which identified advantages and barriers experienced by city-dwelling seniors. The project has concluded with the release of the WHO Global Age-Friendly Cities Guide today, on International Day of Older Persons.

“An age-friendly community benefits all residents, young and old alike. Secure neighbourhoods are safe for children, youth, women and older adults,” said Chong. “Making cities age-friendly is one of the most effective policy approaches for responding to demographic aging and is one of the ways we are supporting our aging population.”

The $500,000 from the Province builds on $2 million invested in 2004 to support services for aging populations in communities. Funding will further develop the Seniors’ Housing and Support Initiative with a specific focus on age-friendly planning for B.C. communities.

The World Health Organization, in partnership with the Public Health Agency of Canada, initiated the Global Age-Friendly Cities Project in 2006 to engage cities throughout the world in making their communities more friendly to seniors. Thirty-five partner cities, including Rio de Janeiro, Cancun, Nairobi, Moscow, New Delhi and Tokyo, consulted with older persons, community leaders and caregivers to identify physical and social barriers to active aging, to identify positive attributes and to make suggestions for improvements. This knowledge has also been used to recognize concrete age-friendly indicators and produce a practical tool to guide local government planning, community development and policy changes to support an age-friendly environment.

The Ministry of Health provided a $20,000 grant to Dr. Elaine Gallagher, the director of the University of Victoria’s Centre on Aging, to co-ordinate eight Saanich focus groups as part of the Age-Friendly Cities Project, and a $5,000 grant to the District of Saanich to develop their implementation plan based on what was learned in the focus groups. Results from Saanich’s involvement in the project, along with key objectives for 2008 are documented in the District of Saanich World Health Organization Global Age-Friendly Cities Project report.

Gordon Hogg, Minister of the State for ActNow BC, represented the Province in London, England at the global launch of the WHO Global Age-Friendly Cities Guide today to promote B.C.’s leadership in the Age-Friendly Cities Project.

“A healthy and active lifestyle is important whether you’re eight or 80,” said Hogg. “The value of a healthy community is seen all around the world and what Saanich has achieved will be shared with our international partners. Today’s announcement recognizes the need to ensure older citizens are not only healthy but safe in their community.”

An age-friendly community benefits people of all ages. Families experience less worry and stress when their older relations have the services and supports they need and barrier-free buildings and streets enhance the mobility and independence of both younger and older persons with disabilities. The whole community benefits from the participation of older persons in volunteer or paid work and civic activities.

Government will look to Saanich’s example in creating age-friendly communities as it rolls out a provincewide initiative over the next three years.

“Saanich is proud to have worked with our partners to provide valuable research to an international effort aimed at making communities more flexible and responsive to the needs of an aging population,” said Saanich Mayor Frank Leonard, who released Saanich’s Global Age-Friendly Cities Project report. “We will continue to work to ensure all residents have access to healthy lifestyle choices, active participation in community life and safe and secure ‘age-friendly’ surroundings.”

Approximately 23 per cent of Saanich’s population is over the age of 60 and this will increase by nine per cent by 2026. The proportion of the Saanich population aged 75 and over is nine per cent, compared to B.C.’s average of six per cent for British Columbia.

UVic’s Centre on Aging conducted the WHO research component in Saanich through focus groups with 65 seniors, caregivers and community leaders and service providers who assessed the community’s strengths for promoting active aging.

“This project afforded an exciting opportunity to demonstrate the capacity of the University of Victoria to collaborate with municipal and provincial partners to effect real life changes affecting peoples’ health and well-being,” said Dr. Elaine Gallagher, project researcher and director of the UVic centre. “It is reflective of a new vision of the future role that universities will have in decades to come.”

Copies of the Saanich report are available at www.saanich.ca and www.health.gov.bc.ca/cpa/mediasite/headlines.html#oct1 and copies of the WHO Global Age-Friendly Cities project are available at www.who.org.
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Media contacts:
Anne McKinnon, Communications Director, Ministry of Community Services at 250-953-3677
Trish Fougner, Public Affairs Bureau, ActNow BC at 250-356-9814 or cell 250-920-8542
Susan Brice, Councillor, District of Saanich at 250-5510
Maria Lironi, Communications Officer, UVic Communications at 250-721-6139 or cell 250-213-1705
Backgrounders:
Saanich Moves Towards Age-Friendly Future

UVic media releases and other resources for journalists are available on the World Wide Web at http://communications.uvic.ca/media

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