The Age-Friendly Community Action Plan contains 116 actions across eight categories, all aimed at making communities across the county inclusive and accessible to all age groups.
Gray County Council has approved an action plan to make its communities more age-friendly.
The Age-Friendly Community Action Plan, approved Feb. 24 following extensive research and public consultation throughout 2021, offers sweeping recommendations intended to make Gray County communities more inclusive and accessible for all age groups.
“In 2021, Gray County’s median age was 49.3, compared to 40.7 province-wide,” said Stephanie Lacey-Avon, County Intermediate Planner. Grey. “Twenty-four percent of Grey’s population is 65 or older, compared to just 14.8 percent aged 0-14.”
“What we do know is that Gray County continues to be an attractive place for retirees,” she said. “Furthermore, as Gray County’s population continues to age, we are nowhere near population replacement rates. Therefore, support for families is an essential element in encouraging the maintenance of a vibrant community.
The action plan contains 116 action items divided into eight categories, including:
- Transportation, including a recommendation to expand transit routes and hours of operation
- Housing, including a recommendation to conduct a review of short-term rentals, to determine if interventions are needed to address the low supply of housing and to encourage the construction of alternative housing in the county
- Community support and health services, including a recommendation to work with partners to ensure and expand access to mental health and addictions services
- Civic Participation and Employment, including a recommendation to ensure training and retraining programs are offered across the county
- Respect and Social Inclusion, including a recommendation to hire an Indigenous Liaison Officer at the county level
- Social participation, including a recommendation to organize events focusing on cultural diversity
- Outdoor spaces and buildings, including a recommendation to increase the number of benches along walking paths, parks and county town centers
- Communication and information, including a recommendation to explore funding opportunities to expand broadband across the county
“This project was done in four steps over two phases and it’s based on… Ontario’s age-friendly community planning guide for municipalities and community organizations, and that guide was released in 2021,” said Nadia de Santi, consultant at WSP in Canada. who worked on the action plan.
Desanti said considerable public engagement went into developing the plan, which aimed to identify gaps in services and communities across the county that impede accessibility for all age groups.
“What are the good things happening in Gray County and what are the areas that need improvement? ” She says. “These improvements are essentially the actions that are in the action plan.”
“We used a number of engagement methods to consult with all of these groups and that included active engagement through virtual workshops, interviews, focus groups,” she said.
Desanti highlighted two key recommendations from the action plan that she would like to see implemented in the county.
“[The first is] hire a dedicated staff member who can focus on implementing the age-friendly action plan, who can take it and kind of steer the ship, and that’s really key to making sure the plan is a priority,” she said.
“The second key recommendation is to apply for and receive age-friendly community designation through the World Health Organization,” she said. “Many of the communities in which I have worked leading age-friendly community plans say that there are many benefits to World Health Organization designation, including from an economic development perspective, from a tourism, a place to come and live and raise your family and work.”
Chatsworth Mayor Scott Mackey asked about the alternative housing solutions proposed in the action plan.
“In the report it talks about housing, there are not enough smaller or intermediate units [units],” he said. “Can you talk about the other options in between for people leaving their family home in the countryside and wanting to move to the city, [and] what other types of options are you referring to? »
Lacey-Avon cited an example where a family needed accessible housing for their teenage daughter, and how there were few options available.
“Their daughter had accessibility needs, so she needed an accessible space to live in,” she said. “Most often we think of accessible spaces when serving older people, and therefore the only ones available…. the space for family living was in a facility generally designed for those 55 and over. So this is just one example of a housing gap where we don’t have those apartments, or smaller units, that are generally geared towards accessibility for all ages.
Mackey also asked about opportunities to help people stay in their current homes and avoid having to move.
“There’s definitely a demand for people who can’t stay in their homes anymore and are looking for these apartments…and they’re very popular,” he said. “There are long waiting lists for all the developments we have… so what can we do to increase the amount of aid to allow someone to stay at home?”
“A couple of action items in the action plan talk about … finding resources that exist in terms of renovation grants, but people may not be aware of those grants,” Lacey-Avon said. “One of the action items of the plan is to really communicate what resources exist to facilitate and help people stay in their homes or in the existing community they currently reside in.”
Brian Milne, Deputy Mayor of Southgate, asked what the financial impact of the action plan would be.
“I wonder, in your travels to generate this report, did you come across this [the] what financial impacts or opportunities could be? ” He asked.
“Having an age-friendly community initiatives strategy and action plan in place is a conduit for future grant and funding opportunities,” Lacey-Avon responded.
“I want to shed light on the city of Hanover,” she said. “Over 90% of the work they did [has] been funded by the province…there is a lot of funding for this type of work that is available, and so the financial aspect of implementing this plan is, from my perspective, quite minimal in terms of what county or municipalities should engage.
The Gray County Chief Executive noted that a number of the recommendations do not require significant funds and that volunteerism may increase as COVID-19 abates.
“There are many recommendations in this report that don’t relate to physical infrastructure,” she said. “A big part of what makes our communities great is the people who live there and the relationships those people have with each other.”
“I think as we recover [from COVID-19]it’s so important that we all think carefully about how we can bring people together face to face, how we can create opportunities for people to help each other, and how we make sure everyone knows about the opportunities there. down need to step up,” she said.
Although the action plan has been approved by the board, it will have to be ratified at a later date.
The action plan will be submitted to all municipalities in Gray County for information, and county staff will develop a work plan to address the action items.