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Getting the Senior Vote in Somerset Ward

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My responses to the Seniors Committee of the Centretown Citizens Community Association

The Seniors Committee of the Centretown Citizens Community Association of which I am chair, published an article in the September edition of the Centretown Buzz entitled “Getting the Senior Vote”  for candidates in Somerset Ward. Your answers will form the basis of a follow up article for the Buzz October edition just before the election.

In 2012 the City of Ottawa adopted a 74 item action plan based on the WHO (World Health Organization) Global Network of Age-Friendly Cities and Communities.  That same year, the Mayor launched the Older Adult Plan for the city. The key directions of the plan are to engage seniors in a collaborative process to create an age friendly city. The number of seniors in and approaching this age range is steadily increasing and will make up one quarter of the population in the forseeable future (2031).  Centretown has the highest percentage of today’s single seniors in Ottawa (52%). What do the candidates consider the priority needs of frail seniors living alone in Centretown? What can be done to ensure that two demographic populations, one young workers and the other seniors, can best contribute actively to each other’s welfare?

Bridging the gap between our younger and older citizens is very important.  An idea I’ve had for some time now is a volunteer program, perhaps run by one of the senior or community centres, that would twin a younger person with a senior.  Both can learn so much from one another, keep each other company, provide life advice, help out with chores, run errands or take a walk to the park to enjoy a beautiful sunny day.

As Centretown intensifies in population, building, land use and activities, there will be a need to increase the number of affordable housing units available to accommodate the increasing number of  seniors, largely single. What can you do to ensure that this accommodation offers options that facilitate aging in place, particularly for single seniors?

I propose that all affordable housing built moving forward be designed for better accessibility.  For example, wider door frames in case a walker or wheelchair is required, seamless transitions from room to room to eliminate trip hazards and better wall construction for when support bars are needed.  It is also important to ensure that they are more energy efficient to keep costs as low as possible.

With the increasing number of single seniors choosing to age in Centretown, there is a need for seniors in all income groups to get to know and help each other, as well as have contact with other age groups. Community centres and churches (and other traditional organizations) provide some of these meeting spaces but more will be needed. Informal, affordable, accessible spaces with appropriate seating are needed year round. What do the candidates propose to do to create affordable welcoming social spaces that keep seniors healthy and engaged in the community as they age?

Affordable housing should include common/recreational rooms whenever possible.  These rooms could be used to meet with neighbours, visit with family, play games, read and so on.  Beautifully landscaped yards with benches and swings would provide a great space for many seniors to gather and socialize, especially for those living alone and with family living out-of-town.

In a previous debate many of the candidates expressed support for more bike lanes in Centretown. With an aging population living in Centretown safe sidewalks with sufficient space to accommodate increasing numbers of slow pedestrians as well as those using canes, walkers and wheelchairs, are important. The findings of Ecology Ottawa’s Walkability Audit on the current state of Centretown sidewalks highlighted the need for additional maintenance and safety measures. What do you propose to do to ensure that Centretown sidewalks are wide enough and sufficiently maintained to make it possible for seniors, particularly those with mobility problems, to get around?

As I mentioned at that particular debate, one of our most pressing issues is our sidewalks.  Many of them are in horrendous condition, broken up, uneven, overcrowded and poorly maintained during the winter months.  We must ensure that our pedestrians, especially our seniors or those using mobility aids, feel safe and secure when walking from point A to point B and back.  The first step is to urgently repair our current sidewalks.   Moving forward, as city councillor I will insist that all streets being developed or re-developed are done using a complete streets approach which includes better, safer and wider sidewalks.  Removing telephone poles and burying all wires will certainly help in making our sidewalks wider.  One thing I would like to see are more benches on our sidewalks so people can take a minute or two to rest while out and about.  I will also ensure that pavers, although very pretty, are no longer used as they end up being uneven after a while making it very difficult to use.  Case and point, Somerset Street between O’Connor and Bank Streets.  The installation of bike corrals in some areas will remove many of the bikes from our sidewalks providing more space for pedestrians while only taking away one parking space.

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