Metchosin targets ways to retain its aging population in the community
After hearing good things about living in retirement communities from her peers, Audrey Jenkins, rushed home to her cheque book.
Moments later the 88-year-old was looking across her idyllic Metchosin backyard, watching the birds, squirrels and twin deer.
“Then I thought, I can’t leave this place. No way,” said Jenkins. “If I had to move into a (seniors’) home I would lose this world.”
Since her husband passed away 18 years ago, she has lived on her own in her rural home on Metchosin Road. She is faces some mobility issues and has started using a walker, but Jenkins is right where she wants to be.
“I always said this is where I was going to end up,” Jenkins said. “My community is important to me and I know my neighbours.”
Over the past year, Metchosin’s active aging committee hosted workshops with seniors to understand what they need to allow them to age in place.
After consulting with dozens of seniors in Metchosin, nearly 300 barriers were identified — the two biggest barriers are transportation and finding information.
“It’s difficult to know where to look and often seniors don’t find (the Internet) user friendly,” said David Richardson, a facilitator for aging-in-place workshops.
A couple weeks ago Jenkins had a ramp built at her front door to avoid maneuvering up stairs.
“I got my own paper this morning (at the end of the driveway). It’s things like that I was beginning to feel hesitant about,” said Jenkins, who has had both hips replaced and still suffers from a bad knee.
Jenkins has three sons who do repairs at her home, but without them she wouldn’t know where to go for help.
Richardson said the workshops revealed that many seniors are in the dark in terms of what health care or social programs they qualify for. To help with information and communication barriers, the committee is looking into a few options.
“We need to look at new ways to get the information to the people,” Richardson said.
One concept gaining popularity in the U.S. is a “virtual village.”
Seniors pay a membership fee to a non-profit group with links to various business and services, all verified as legitimate and trustworthy.
If a senior is looking for a plumber, they contact the virtual village and an employee will hire the company to do the work, often for a discounted price.
The virtual village recommends businesses with a good track record with its clients, and drop those that don’t.
Another potential project is a designated phone line for seniors as a one-stop source for information on government, business and social services.
With transportation, Richardson and the committee have also been looking at alternatives for seniors.
In the rural community, many seniors are leery of using public transit due to stops being unlit and far apart. Most homes in Metchosin have long hilly driveways.
“It’s not surprising, public transit is pretty limited here,” Richardson said. “Transit is not as easy of a nut to crack.”
Jenkins still has a driver’s licence, but has stopped driving and doesn’t plan to renew her licence.
“I realize with how my knee is acting up, I am not going to be driving,” Jenkins said.
To get around town she depends on friends and family for rides and will use HandyDART and taxi service as well.
These options require Jenkins to, “do a lot of waiting.”
“I do get out, but not as much as I would like. Now it just takes more foresight and planning.”
Other ideas being looked are a ride-share program with designated pick up stops, similar to programs operating on Pender Island, or to have Metchosin approve the use of the community van to help seniors get to social functions in the district.
Richardson said the committee is also looking at the costs and logistics of purchasing a small bus or getting a designated taxi to stay within Metchosin.
“It is a common perception that when you can no longer drive you have to leave the community,” Richardson said. “This encourages people to stay in the community.”