Municipalities have important role to ensure seniors’ health and well being

Kim Pemberton, Postmedia Network

Nearly 300 Lower Mainland seniors, between the ages of 55 and 90, took part in the second annual Forever Young 8K run/walk in Richmond on Sept. 11, 2016. Many of the participants train for the event by working out at municipal recreational facilities. Gord Kurenoff photo [PNG Merlin Archive]

Nearly 300 Lower Mainland seniors, between the ages of 55 and 90, took part in the second annual Forever Young 8K run/walk in Richmond on Sept. 11, 2016. Many of the participants train for the event by working out at municipal recreational facilities. Gord Kurenoff photo [PNG Merlin Archive]

Even though most health services for seniors are provided by the provincial government, a report released Tuesday shows B.C. municipalities also have a vital role to play in seniors health care for those still living at home.

Municipal seniors centres and recreational facilities offer a variety of programs to seniors, from fitness classes to activities that stimulate intellectual development through lectures and book clubs to providing food and nutritional support, according to the report titled Our Future: Seniors, Socialization and Health.

“By providing seniors with opportunities for socializing, healthy meals and physical activity, senior centre programs play a key role in keeping seniors healthy and independent. This can delay/prevent seniors from requiring more costly health care services,” the report states.

But the report also found that as the number of seniors increases (by 2036 it’s estimated one in four Canadians will be aged 65 and older) secure funding and adequate space to hold programming for seniors is required.

“The successful future of multi-purpose senior centres relies heavily on their ability to be sustainable. The centres that receive municipal funding as part of their budget find it easier to plan and build programs with continuity,” the report stated.

Those centres that received municipal grants instead of municipal funding as part of their budget found staff were spending more time and energy to ensure adequate funding and were less able to do long-term planning.

Staff also noted funders often only wanted to provide grants for new projects and programs for seniors and it was difficult to secure grant money to sustain successful programs.

The report, done by the Columbia Institute, surveyed eight seniors centres in the Lower Mainland and noted programming and space differed.

For instance, Dunbar Community Centre and 411 Seniors did not offer popular food and nutrition programs since they did not have kitchen facilities, while the other six did but varied in how often food was provided to seniors. But Dunbar and 411 Seniors did provide other innovative programs, such as an Art for Healing therapy program at 411 and a health drop-in at Dunbar where seniors could have their blood pressure checked by retired nurse volunteers.

As for space, the report noted the Seniors Activity Centre in West Vancouver has “ideal space and liberal funding and consequently runs a very rich and diverse program.” However, South Granville Seniors Centre in Vancouver is located in a church basement and has had to learn “to adapt to cramped quarters including several small windowless rooms.”

The report states: “In spite of the handicaps of the physical space, it has many vibrant culturally relevant programs due to sensitive, dedicated staff. Nevertheless, there is a correlation between program, facility space, resources, participants needs and desires.”

Of the eight centres surveyed, five of them (411 Seniors, Minoru Place, Silver Harbour in North Vancouver, South Granville and West Vancouver) were considering or actively planning to move to a new space to meet the needs of their growing clientele. The other three (Dunbar, Kitsilano and Dogwood Pavilion in Coquitlam) were either in the process of a renovation or had completed one.

The report found younger seniors, aged 55 to 65, generally made less use of seniors centres and the average age range of users was 75 to 85.

kpemberton@postmedia.com