In Coquitlam – as in most Canadian cities – our seniors population is growing every year. Existing residents want to stay in this community, while mature adults from other communities are attracted by Coquitlam’s amenities, its lifestyle. We’ve done a great deal of planning and implementation to make Coquitlam age-friendly, from our planning around transportation, to our housing options, to our walkable and livable neighbourhoods and CityCentre. We have invested strongly in community safety, and the results are evident and appreciated by our residents. As Skytrain is arriving to our City Centre, we’re investing$14 million (mostly amenity contributions from residential development) in ensuring that the Pinetree corridor is inviting, walkable, a great place to shop and dine, with walking paths and bike routes, etc. This is all aimed at ensuring that the heart of our city centre (where many of our seniors have chosen to live), remains a place where our residents feel comfortable and want to visit and enjoy. We’re working on similar measures around the Burquitlam Skytrain station, with the same goals in mind.We’ve also made some important changes to our land use regulations in our single-family neighbourhoods. For example, our Housing Choices program is designed to allow laneway housing, carriage homes, and other options that make it more affordable for “empty-nester” residents to stay in the same neighbourhood as they age. For example, by building a one-storey accessible/adaptable home on the lane of their existing lot, some residents have found that they can stay near their friends and neighbours, stay at the same church, etc., perhaps even having their kids/grandkids move into the main home.Here in Coquitlam, we also strongly support our city’s two seniors’ centres – Dogwood Pavilion and Glen Pine Pavilion. I first started working at Dogwood Pavilion in 1978, when I was a student at SFU and Dogwood was a new facility (built under Mayor Jim Tonn). Dogwood was an innovative new facility and over the 18 years I worked part-time there, I was impressed with how Dogwood became such a vital part of the lives of so many of our residents 50 years and older. Today, I’m a Pavilion member, and we continue to invest in this amazing facility – and its younger sister Glen Pine Pavilion. These two facilities will always be dedicated to our seniors, and will continue to welcome our growing seniors population for decades to come.Making a city age-friendly involves lots of additional details,from adapting technology to improve residents’ lives, to building and enhancing parks facilities (yes, dog parks too), to ensuring our sidewalks and pedestrian routes are suitable for walking and scooters alike. I want our residents of all ages to be proud and excited to call Coquitlam their home.
The Tri-Cities Seniors Planning Network asked Council candidates to answer a short survey related to seniors’ issues. This is a particularly important issue for me, as I want Coquitlam to be age-friendly and inclusive, and I want seniors to enjoy a great quality-of-life in this city. So I offer my thanks to the Tri-Cities Seniors Planning Network for this opportunity to engage candidates on these issues.Here are the responses from the three Coquitlam Mayoral candidates (Lou Sekora, Mark Mahovlich, and myself):Question 1: How will you support affordable and accessible housing for seniors?Lou Sekora: Our city normally gives up tax payer's land for a dollar to a developer for 60 years to develop affordable and accessible housing for seniors. A developer normally would not be able to get this land deal any other way. We also have a policy, that for every piece of land that's sold by the city, that 10% of the total be set aside for affordable housing.Mark Mahovlich: I am in favor of affordable and accessible housing for ALL. No exceptions.Richard Stewart: As founding chair of Society for Housing Affordability in BC, most of my career has been spent on the issue of housing affordability for all ages. I also spent ten years on the committee that writes the National Building Code, and I helped develop many of today’s standards for accessible/adaptable housing for disabilities. Over the past six years, we have introduced in Coquitlam a program called “Housing Choices”, aimed at providing a range of affordable housing options for Coquitlam residents, particularly seniors. Such housing choices as age-in-place, carriage homes, coach housing, and smaller one-level homes. I also fully support the development by the non-for-profit sector(churches, housing societies, etc.) of a range of seniors’, assisted living, and other housing options to meet the needs of our diverse community.________________Question 2: How will you support accessible and affordable transportation for seniors? Lou Sekora: Normally these units would be built where there is transit such as buses, sky train, or any other mode of transportation. I believe the seniors are getting free transit passes on a yearly basis. I support that.Mark Mahovlich: Good question. One solution is leasing fleet vehicles to accommodate transportation for seniors and disabled persons.Richard Stewart: We need to expand the range of transportation options. I support the Mayors’Council proposal for a significant investment in public transit, which tend to benefit seniors more than other segments of society. We need to improve Handi-Dart service, and ensure that it is available to our residents when they need it. And I’d like to see both our seniors’ pavilions – Dogwood and GlenPine – consider providing a bus service to pick up and drop off patrons from their homes to the pavilions; those buses could also be used for the regular outings organized by the pavilions. Our seniors population is expected to double in the next couple of decades, and we should be looking at how we will serve them.________________Question 3: How will you support seniors and their families as they deal with issues around aging?Lou Sekora: As I mentioned in item 3 & item 4, that's about the only way that I can see our city getting involved with aging seniors.Mark Mahovlich: Tax shelters, or supplements provided by the City ofCoquitlam B.C.Richard Stewart: Our population is aging, and governments must adapt to that reality. Challenges like accessibility, dementia, access to medical care, and transportation all affect the quality of life of our seniors. We need to work together – governments at all levels – to ensure that a safety net is available, so that no seniors fall through the cracks. Coquitlam is the largest community in the province that doesn’t have its own hospital. We have put forward a proposal to the province for a Coquitlam Health Campus at Riverview; the vision involves both state-of-the-art mental health treatment, and a full acute-care public hospital to address the needs of our aging populations. Waitlists could be shortened if all levels of government worked together. We also need to continue to expand the city’s services to seniors. I first worked at Dogwood Pavilion when it was newly-opened, when I was a student at SFU; today, 35 years later, I’m a Pavilion member. I thought it was a great facility back then, and I believe that today it remains one of the best facilities of its kind in the province. We need to continue to expand both Dogwood and Glen Pine, so that both of these facilities can welcome our increasing seniors population for decades to come.The survey responses from Councillor candidates and from other Tri-Cities communities: http://www.volunteerconnections.net/start-volunteering!/tri-cities-seniors-planning-network/all-candidates-questions
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