Seeking the senior vote
It’s about capturing seniors’ voices in planning for the future, Jane Osborne says.
Beside her, in a quiet office in the John Braithwaite Community Centre, sits Glenys McMillan. Since the beginning of 2011, the two volunteers helped put together one of the most comprehensive seniors’ surveys to be handed out on the North Shore. Based on the World Health Organization’s Age Friendly Cities Project, the survey covers eight areas — public transportation, housing, social participation, inclusion, employment and volunteerism, public spaces, health services and age friendly communication and information.
“The real thing we hope will come from this is that it is going to drive some actions,” says Osborne, the survey leader. “That is why we are trying to involve so many seniors.”
With funding from United Way, the Lionsview Seniors’ Planning Society survey has caught the attention of local municipalities, service groups and private business. The results will not only help non-profit organizations, such as Lionsview, set out priorities, but they could aid community planning. And as North Shore residents grey, seniors’ issues become more prevalent, Osborne notes.
“The biggest challenge of course, is there are more and more and more of us,” she says.
In a pilot project, 280 questionnaires were handed out within the City of North Vancouver. Of those 146 were returned and more are still dribbling in. Survey organizations are trying to catch a diverse cross-section of the senior population. Focus groups were held at Silver Harbour Seniors Centre, John Braithwaite Community Centre and St. John the Evangelist church in North Vancouver.
McMillan, whose career was in social work, says it’s important to include seniors who are isolated from the community and support groups. A lot of surveys she’s seen over the years make big assumptions when it comes to what seniors want, McMillan adds.
“Ageism is something that really riles me,” she says, noting this survey’s questions steer away from categorizing individuals.
Focus groups have brought up issues such as housing. McMillan lives in a subsidized unit at the Kiwanis Towers. There is a growing wait-list to the get into the buildings and many seniors are confronted with the decision of leaving the North Shore for affordable housing in the Lower Mainland, McMillan says. She suspects the survey will highlight such issues.
Beginning on May 9, the survey will be distributed throughout the North Shore. Residents will have until the third week in June to respond.
“We are talking about at least 3,000 surveys,” Osborne says.
Paper surveys are available through Lionsview society, municipalities and community centres. Respondents can also fill out the forms online by visiting one of the three municipal websites or www.lionsviewseniorsplanning.com. For more information call 604-601-1271.