In 1963 Martin Luther King Jr. wrote “In a real sense all life is inter-related. All men are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.”
As the leader of the civil rights movement he was referring to the right to be treated with dignity and the right to equality of opportunity. His words are no less true today and can be applied to the issues and challenges our elderly currently face.
In the February edition of the Columbia Basin Rural Development Institute’s newsletter, the RDI Focus, there is a report that “over the period 2011-15, Nelson’s population has grown four per cent, an increase of 431 residents. Even more notable than this growth is the change in population structure. The number of seniors (65 and over) in our region is now approaching the number of youth (under 25 years of age).”
Our population of seniors is expected to grow by over 40 per cent in the next 20 years. These projections have important consequences for our community, and we need to begin to prepare for these aging baby boomers.Recent news stories have raised the alarm dubbing the growing seniors population the “silver tsunami.” BC’s new seniors advocate, Isobel Mackenzie, has said the shift is slow and there is time to prepare.
I don’t agree. I think that the time for action is now. Our transportation systems, affordable housing stock and health care facilities are already stressed and insufficient. We need to act now to expand capacity, build resiliency and add the flexibility needed to accommodate the growing demand for these services. We need to support seniors to be as healthy and independent as possible.
If we want to make certain we have the resources in place that allow us the dignity to live out our lives with the supports we will require. We must adopt a culture of getting involved now. One way of becoming part of the solution is by volunteering to help ourselves and others while we are still able.
Opportunities to get involved include:
• The Age Friendly Community Initiative, a project lead by Nelson CARES Society which aims to create programs,enhance existing services and strengthen the community’s capacity to meet the needs of our growing seniors population. See nelsoncares.ca.
• Nelson and Area Learning in Retirement, a group for those 50-plus who want to “step out of old patterns and habits, try new things by joining a group of companions who have fun in learning.” See selkirk.ca/ce/courses/learning-retirement.
• Tech Support for Seniors at the Learning Place (lower level City Hall). Offered by the Columbia Basin forLiteracy. See cbal.org.
• Seniors Coordinating Society, which helps seniors navigate government programs and filling out forms including income tax returns. They also offer information about home help services such as cleaning, laundry,light cooking, and respite care. See nelsonseniors.ca.
• The West Kootenay seniors transportation coordinator who assists seniors with exploring transportation options such as transit, HandyDart, Rideshare, Carshare, and volunteer driver programs. See kootenayseniors.ca.
I encourage everyone to get busy with the rewarding work of creating the kind of community that you want to grow old in, because time is ticking for all of us.
The World Health Organization describes an Age Friendly Community as an “inclusive and accessible one that allows people to realize their potential for physical, social, and mental well-being throughout their lives, while providing them with adequate protection, security and care when needed.” Working together helping each other we all benefit by being a caring community. Life has a way of coming full circle. This too is part of our shared destiny.
Nelson city councillor Michael Dailly shares this space weekly with his council colleagues.