County could make improvements to assist the aging, committee says
by Chad Ingram
Published March 28, 2017
An organization that looks out for the interests of people as they age is making a host of recommendations to local governments.
Aging Well Haliburton County has been working on an age-friendly master plan, which it is in the process of finalizing.
Consultant Kate Hall, who was hired to work on the plan, presented findings and recommendations to Haliburton County councillors during a March 22 meeting.
Hall explained to council the committee gathered input through focus groups with seniors, community luncheons, an online survey and interviews with reps from agencies that provide services to seniors.
“This research also builds on some research the Aging Well committee has been doing since 2008,” Hall said, adding the idea was to target groups of people whom the organization has not heard from in the past. “The following three responses came up consistently through all of the research.”
The top three suggestions were the development of a public transportation system; a greater mix of housing options for aging in place; and greater availability and access to medical and health services.
“When people are no longer able to drive and become reliant on their own two feet, walkability becomes really important,” Hall told councillors.
As for health care, “for the most part, people are happy with the services,” Hall said, “it’s really the eligibility piece. You don’t know the system until you need the system. That can be every complex and confusing for people.”
A recommendation was a centralized hub organization that might more easily allow people to navigate the system.
As for housing, “it’s really about design, proximity to community and affordability,” Hall said, adding it was positive the county’s official plan was being updated to encourage the development of more alternate forms of housing, such as granny and garden suites.
While there is a Kawartha Lakes Haliburton Housing Corporation, and while there is a 10-year housing and homelessness plan, “there’s not currently an implementation piece for that in place,” Hall said, adding another suggestion was the creation of a housing advisory committee at the county level.
Hall said the local government could also create a strategy to court the developers of retirement homes.
In everything, she said design should always be top of mind, and that accessibility should be thought about in wider terms than just being accommodating to those with disabilities.
“If something is good for an eight-year-old, and good for an 80-year-old, it’s good for everyone in between,” Hall said.
“You’ve covered a lot of ground here,” said Minden Hills Reeve and County Warden Brent Devolin, adding some of the recommendations did not fit under the purview of the county. “A lot of these responsibilities are beyond the role of county government.”
Devolin, who sits on the housing corporation board, said through work on the area’s poverty reduction strategy, it has been acknowledged there needs to be some breaking down of the silos in which service agencies sometimes operate.
“Pretty well all of these processes have public input,” he said, adding that often, when municipalities hold public meetings on any variety of issue, the turnout is often quite low.
Aging Well Haliburton County is set to begin the implementation of the strategy in April.