Putland speaks on importance of being an Age Friendly community

October 25, 2021, 2:33 pm
Kara Kinna

Devona Putland speaking at the Tuesday Chamber meeting.

A new, local organization is aiming to put age on the radar and make Moosomin a community that embraces aging and finds ways to be more age friendly by enhancing the quality of life for seniors in the area.

At the Moosomin Chamber of Commerce meeting on Tuesday, Devona Putland with Age Friendly Moosomin gave a presentation to Chamber members about the organization, what it’s all about, and why it’s important.

“Age Friendly is under the umbrella of the Saskatchewan Seniors Mechanism,” explained Putland. “When Age Friendly came out in 2006, Saskatchewan was the only province in Canada where we didn’t have a provincial government office take it on. So they came to the Saskatchewan Senior Mechanism and said can you guys take on Age Friendly?

“Age Friendly exists all over the world. We’re basically a provincial, non-profit, social benefit organization. Our vision is quality of life for older adults in Saskatchewan. Whatever we find is good for older adults, it generally benefits an entire community.

“Of the things that we do to accomplish our mission of that better quality of life, the first one is research and action. The research that’s been done came from a 2009 study done by Saskatchewan Seniors Mechanism, and what they found out when they surveyed people who are older and aging was that most people desired to age in place. They don’t want to be forced to leave their community to get the adequate care they need as they get older, they want to be able to have choices of how they age and they want their needs to be met.

“The communities that are Age Friendly end up with policies and structures that support active aging and also aging in place. They’re communities that are welcoming and allow input into decisions.”

Putland says this leads to healthier citizens.

“Our aging citizens stay healthier when they’re allowed to age in place and be active in their communities. They have community connections, they feel safe, they feel vibrant. There’s inter-generational things built into communities as well, and we know that having exposure to young people helps keep our minds active and helps keep us younger, at least at heart.

“With active leadership and involvement of the older adults, it brings a new lens to our community.”

Putland told Chamber members about a survey that Age Friendly Moosomin is doing right now to get feedback from people in the community on how Moosomin can be more age friendly.

“We are wanting to see what that lens from each of you looks like in our community,” she said. “How do you see Moosomin? A lot of us have been here a long time, we know Moosomin like we know the back of our hand but we don’t always look at it in a critical way. What needs to improve? What could be better? What things are missing? And so hopefully our surveys are going to help us with that a little bit.

“In Saskatchewan, we say it’s really important that our focus is on the entire community. The reason being, Saskatchewan, unlike other provinces, has a disproportionate amount of young and old.”

Putland pointed out that older adults make up a significant percentage of Saskatchewan’s population and Saskatchewan actually has a larger proportion of younger people than the Canadian profile. She said this holds true for Moosomin as well. Residents 0-14 and 65 and up make up 38.8 per cent of Moosomin’s population.

The median age of Saskatchewan residents is projected to increase from 37.1 years in 2013 to 42.7 years in 2038. In the same time period, the percentage of people over the age of 65 years is projected to rise from 14.4 per cent to between 19.4 per cent and 22.7 per cent.

Putland says right now, seniors are playing a huge and important role in the economy and their communities and in Saskatchewan as a whole.

“Many of them are being asked to come back to the workforce. They’re doing in-home care giving for family members and they’re also volunteering. All those things make up $1 billion in our economy each year,” she says.

Putland says the survey they are handing in Moosomin out focuses on the eight domains of Age Friendly.

“No matter where Age Friendly takes place—if it be in China, if it be in Paris, if it’s here—we have these domains that we look at.

“The first area being assessed is our outdoor spaces and buildings. This survey is asking questions about conditions of sidewalks, rest areas, accessibility to buildings and that sort of thing.

“Second is transportation. In Moosomin some of our seniors have really been impacted because STC and Greyhound were both discontinued. So if you don’t have family or friends to drive you to appointments, you now have quite costly situations.

“Third is housing. In Moosomin we are currently getting our Cobblestone House assisted living. It’s coming, it was needed yesterday. We have options in the manors, we have Sask Housing availability, we have a long-term care home, but the in between part has now been seen as a need and it’s going to be developed.

“The other part of this is the affordability and the choice. Not everybody wants to live in high density housing as they age. Do we have the choices that people want?”

Fourth on the list is social participation, and fifth is respect and social inclusion. “This is where, for example, when there’s an arts council performance, do we have the ability to include all populations on those evenings?” asked Putland. “Is it something that’s not accessible because we don’t have ways of transporting people? Maybe we don’t have the accessibility that’s needed?

“Civic participation and employment (#6) comes down to your volunteer jobs, having people represented on councils and in various jobs within the community.

“The communication and information aspect (#7) is something that has shown us a divide during Covid. We’ve got technology that has linked us together, but for the people that still aren’t familiar or comfortable with technology, it hasn’t helped them. So how do we achieve that? And do we still need readable forms that can be done with paper and hard copy? Not everybody’s maybe as comfortable with the technology part of it.

“The last area is our health services and I think that’s the one where Moosomin shines and because of it we’ve attracted a larger senior population retiring here. They really do appreciate our hospital care and our great crew of doctors we have in town.”

Putland says once Moosomin’s Age Friendly committee was formed, it jumped into action assessing these eight domains.

“We first struck our committee, then we’ve done some broadcasting in the community, we’ve spoken to the RMs, we’ve spoken to town council, and now today, we’ve developed an assessment of the community. Before we can fix something, we first have to know what’s broken, and so that’s why the assessment is out.

“You should, if you live in town, have received the survey delivered to your house. Our group hand-delivered 1,500 surveys around town. Surveys are considered successful between three and four per cent return. Already we have over 100 returned to the library. So thank you community of Moosomin again because that’s an awesome, awesome turn around and we still have a week to go.

“The last part is our action plan. Once we see those surveys, we’ll tabulate the information and the perceptions of people, then we get to develop an action plan for things that we can help impact.

“As an Age Friendly committee we can advocate, we can do, and because we are grass roots I think we have great potential in being able to do that. If the community were to take on some of the things for accessibility for example, it doesn’t only help just the senior, it can help with many other people in the community. A sloped sidewalk into a business means that people have a choice of businesses to go to. So people should desire to have people find their businesses accessible. So each of those has a positive spinoff for anyone.

“The road to Age Friendly is a journey, this isn’t a one shot wonder where we’re going to do one thing this year and that’s it, our committee’s done. It’s going to be a long-term initiative where we have the corporate members of our community, we have people that have dreams and ideas for what should happen, and we hope that this can continue and be sustained for a long time.

“In some towns, like Strasbourg for example, they attached this on to their rec board, and Age Friendly is an active part of the rec board. So there’s many different ways it can be handled, but we just have to get our feet into it and see what happens.”

Although surveys were handed out around town, Putland said they are also available to be picked up at the town office, library, Evolution Hair Studio, Celebration Ford, and the RM of Moosomin office.

Gillespie says Moosomin can’t afford not to be age friendly
Moosomin’s Economic Development Officer, Greg Gillespie, followed with a presentation on the economic benefits and the necessity of accommodating older people in a community.

“My point here is that taking care of our seniors and accommodating them could be considered a luxury, but from an economic development perspective I think it’s a necessity,” he said.

He said Moosomin is set to see 54 per cent growth in the 70 to 84-year-old age bracket in just 12 years.

“We’re going to see an increase of around just shy of 700 seniors in the deep senior category, not the young senior category. In a few short years you’re going to see 700 more seniors walking around town,” he said. “So that’s a significant part of the population and it’s going to drive a lot of what happens here from health care to housing to services to restaurants to leisure to products. It’s going to be the new economic driver in, not just Moosomin, but everywhere.

“The seniors of today aren’t the seniors of our grandparents’ day. Seniors are active, they’re making money, they’re contributing and they’re spending money.”

Gillespie showed a graph that showed that a significant proportion of wealth is held by people ages 60 to 65.

“(Look at) the amount of money that’s held in that age category as compared to much younger, and of course it starts to drop off as the senior’s spending lightens up or they move into assisted living or they just can’t spend the money,” he says.

“So the point being that if you discount the seniors category, if you don’t think of them, if the community doesn’t have them top of mind, that money’s going to flow out of this community and flow somewhere else. That’s just expenditures by one age, group and as you can see late 60s and early 70s seniors are still spending a significant amount of money even compared to what we consider the heavy consumers in their 40s and mid 50s.

“I just want to make the point once again that this is not about accommodating seniors in my opinion from an economic point of view. We have to embrace it because it’s going to drive our economy here for the next 30 to 40 years.”