As the population of the West Shore continues to increase, so too does the area’s population of seniors. That demographic is in luck, though, as Langford has been named one of B.C.’s most age-friendly communities, thanks in part to the city’s new Age-Friendly Action Plan.
Plan co-ordinator Leah Stohmann, Langford’s deputy director of planning, says it was an opportunity for the city to continue its goal of becoming a “complete community.”
Seeing an opportunity for grant money to study how to better serve area seniors, the city jumped on it, Stohmann says.
“Langford’s very well known for its family-oriented amenities,” Stohmann says, “so this was an opportunity to say, ‘hey, how are we doing in regards to seniors? Are there ways that we could improve their ability to stay in our community? It’s very important that Langford becomes a complete community for all its residents. Not just for young families, but for older people as well, and give that opportunity for people to have their needs met throughout their entire lives.”
Through a series of open houses, surveys and focus groups, the city conducted a needs assessment, wrote an action plan full of recommendations on potential improvements, and brought it to council for implementation.
The study is broken down into eight categories such as outdoor spaces, transportation and civic participation, highlighting gaps and barriers, projects underway that help address those, and what more can be done moving forward. These diverse topics were valuable to look at individually, rather than in a general, “what are we doing well, and what are we not?” kind of way, because there are strengths and weaknesses within each category that should be acknowledged and addressed.
Stohmann says the city has more control over some improvements than others, but all of these aspects can be aided by forethought and planning. The city has very little control over the number of health services available in the community, but they can ensure that everywhere is zoned so that one of those services could move in if they wanted, for example.
Council has already adopted four main recommendations from the plan. Two of those are in the area of housing, where council has reduced amenity contributions for affordable and seniors’ housing complexes as well as the application fees for rezoning when it’s for developments designed to help in those areas.
“We’re doing what we can do to encourage new seniors’ projects to come into Langford,” Stohmann says, “particularly in the downtown area, because that’s where there’s the easiest access to the amenities they need. You want them where they can get to the things they need very easily.”
They have also developed Danbrook Park as an off-leash park area, “because we were hearing that people wanted more places in the city they could take their dogs,” Stohmann says.
The action plan also helped council make the decision to allow the expansion of the Goldstream Station Market, adding a Wednesday night market to their offerings during the summer months.
Council adopted the Age Friendly Action Plan as policy this past January, and can now make decisions based on the recommendations it contains.
“We can now keep those recommendations in mind as we develop our budgets for infrastructure improvements, apply for grants to increase bike lanes, and improve multi-use trails within the community, that sort of thing,” Stohmann says.
“It helps support those types of initiatives and then as we look at policy updates and rezoning applications and things like that, we can try to further some of the recommendations and goals and comments that came out of the plan.”
To check out the Age Friendly Action Plan, pick up a copy at City Hall or download it HERE.