Last winter, struggling on icy streets on my way to Carleton University, I suddenly felt fear: “Would I make it safely, would I slip or be hit by a car?” And so, petrified, tense and with pounding heart I did manage to reach Carleton’s campus and there, oh great relief, discovered that the sidewalks were fine!
This walkability pattern continued over the winter: treacherous sidewalks in our neighbourhood and good walkability on Carleton’s campus. Of course I notified the City’s 311, as well as the Transportation Committee, but my pleas went unacknowledged and ignored. Friends and acquaintances fell, broke bones, or lost mobility due to soft tissue injuries, but nothing improved. Our winter walking system was, and still is, broken.
This realisation was enough for me to find out what has been done in the past about this and other challenges for seniors and other vulnerable groups. To my delight I discovered that the Council on Aging, COA, through its Age Friendly Ottawa, AFO, produced two Age Friendly Action Plans, (2012-2014, 2015-2016) and the 2017 report “How Age Friendly is Ottawa?” In these reports the following 8 dimensions are evaluated: outdoor spaces and buildings; transportation; housing; communication and information; social, recreational and cultural participation; civic participation and volunteering; community support and health services; respect and social inclusion.
Obviously Age Friendly Ottawa, in close collaboration with the City, Community Partners, and seniors, has accomplished a lot. We live in a great city indeed! However, more needs to be done, as I experienced last winter.
The “How Age Friendly is Ottawa” report quantifies that 31% of seniors walk less than one hour per week in their neighbourhood. By 2025 25% of our neighbourhood will be 65 and over. An average of one in four seniors needs help to remain in their own homes; 27% of seniors live alone. “Age-Friendly communities promote the health, safety, and active participation of seniors”, I quote (loosely) from the report.
The disconnect occurs when policies and reports do not respond and actuate change in problematic situations. Policies and information is available, but who takes action? Individuals do not get action, as I experienced myself. But advocacy groups, such as Age Friendly Ottawa, and community associations do.
So, with that in mind, a steering committee decided to launch “Senior Watch Old Ottawa South”.
And we hope that, in May, the newly elected board of the Ottawa South Community Association will vote to endorse “Senior Watch Old Ottawa South” as a new sub-committee and will support its endeavours to change and improve “the health, safety, and active participation of seniors”.
I have met with OSCA’s nomination committee to discuss my “senior perspective” platform and intention to join OSCA’s board. These plans were warmly welcomed.
We, seniors, need to speak up about issues in our community that hinder our health, safety and active participation! And we need to take action and seek support before it’s too late and accidents happen.
If you think there is a place for a Senior Watch committee to support and advocate for seniors in our community, let us know.
The group is considering monthly articles in OSCAR giving information and addressing issues of interest to seniors in Old Ottawa South. Of course, we already benefit from the many services at Abbotsford, that support active participation for seniors, but there are health and safety issues in our immediate community, that require attention.