age-friendly, covid-19

Emerging from the Pandemic:   Older Adults Reimagine a More Age-friendly Community

The responses to the COVID-19 pandemic in this community and around the world, rightly focused on protecting lives and preventing the spread of the virus. Unintended consequences however, have had an  detrimental effect on older adults who are  feeling the full impacts of economic, mental and physical effects of social isolation,  challenges to our human rights, neglect and abuse in institutions and care facilities and the trauma of ageist attitudes and discriminations.

It is true, the global pandemic has severely impacted everyone; however, it has disproportionately affected older adults. We are at higher risk of contracting the disease, and more likely to develop severe infections and die from it. In Canada, close to 90% of COVID-!9 related deaths have occurred in people over the age of 60 and a staggering 80% of COVID-19 deaths were in individuals who lived or worked in long term care facilities or other types of care homes. Social isolation, the closing of many parts of society, and the fear and anxiety associated with the pandemic are pronounced for seniors. Many older citizens face severe challenges meeting their basic needs, such as shopping for food, medications, and obtaining needed health and community care. Some live in potentially dangerous environments where elder abuse is a potential factor. Older adults living in care facilities have been denied access for months to those who love them and any contact has been reduced to electronic communication and window waves.

“Much research has shown that human connection is a key determinant of health, and COVID-19 restrictions, while necessary, don’t really justify complete isolation from family, caregivers and friends. “

The challenges that older adults are experiencing are not new and few are unique to the virus. But COVID-19 intensifies and complicates everything and exacerbates the many challenges faced by older adults. The most distressing are the ageist stereotypes and discriminations that have become more visible in the last few months. Ageism is defined as a process of systematic stereotyping of and discrimination against people because they are old. It means that older people are devalued and their human rights compromised. Indeed, older adults have become the focus of this pandemic and have been isolated or paternalistically (though well-intentioned) protected without their own choices being respected.

“People above the age of 65 are often assumed to be a homogeneous group of “older people” or “Seniors” who are frail, lack independent decision-making capacity and need to be protected. The reality is strikingly different.”

There are three distinct generations between the ages of 60 and 100. Close to 90% live independently and make significant contributions to society. For example, the restrictions on older adults’ abilities to engage in meaningful volunteer activities is impacting community organizations at a time when many need increased hours of volunteerism to meet the challenges of the pandemic. In the same way that infants, children and youth have very distinct characteristics, so too do different older adult generations. One size does not fit all.

The Saskatoon Council on Aging (SCOA) tackles issues of importance to older adults and has continued to support older adult throughout the pandemic. We are uniquely positioned to communicate directly to citizens and public officials about what is at stake and what might be improved. SCOA can propose solutions that would improve policies and programs for an aging population and create a better quality of life for older citizens.  We hope that the spotlight on the experiences of older people during this crisis will bring stronger commitment to working toward a more age-friendly community.

SCOA has adopted the World Health Organization’s (WHO) “Age-Friendly Cities” model as a critical way to support older adults to age positively in Saskatoon. In an age-friendly city, policies, services, settings and structures support and enable people to age actively by recognizing the wide range of capacities and resources among older people, anticipating and responding flexibly to aging-related needs and preferences, respecting their decisions and lifestyle choices, protecting those who are most vulnerable and promoting their inclusion in and contribution to all areas of community life.

SCOA’s multi-year Age-friendly Saskatoon Initiative revealed three key issues that hundreds of older adults in Saskatoon identified as critical in ensuring a good quality of life:

  • Ageism is the greatest barrier older adults face.
  • Older adults want to have input into policies and programs that affect them.
  • The entire community has a role to play in creating an age-friendly environment.

As evaluations are carried out to examine COVID-19 pandemic responses how do we ensure that the voices of older adults are heard, that older persons are appropriately protected in the future, that we do not overlook how extremely diverse this age group is, how incredibly resilient we are, and the importance of the multiple roles we have in society, including as caregivers, employees, volunteers and community leaders? Here are some suggestions:

  1. Examine all policy decisions and community advisories through an age-friendly lens. SCOA has developed a tool just for this purpose. Policies need to be made with us not for us.
  2.  Begin to create and foster living environments that truly support quality of life in all its aspects from access to good health care to high quality food, recreation and community building. Ensure that staffing and care standards in both community and long term care are elevated to the same level of importance in the health care system as hospital care.  
  3. Begin right now, not after the pandemic is declared over, to develop a detailed provincial senior’s strategy that will re-examine and act upon the learnings of the pandemic on eliminating ageism, developing age-friendly communities and attending to mental health and self- determination.  Create a full spectrum of options for those who want to live independently, or with home care support, assisted and intermediate care living alternatives, and those who require complex care. Ensure that older adults lead/participate in this work.
  4. Open a public discussion about ethical responses and protection of human rights during this pandemic crisis and how as a community we can foster an age-friendly community that supports positive aging for all citizens.

SCOA’s hope is that by articulating these challenges and opportunities, we might move more quickly to minimize the negative outcomes of COVID-19, maximize positive changes that might be possible and redouble our efforts to improve our aging society in ways that benefit people across the life span.  We will emerge from this pandemic having paid a high price but more resilient and determined than ever. Now is the time to take bold action, create communities and caring environments that promote positive aging: something all of us deserve.

Candace Skrapek
Shan Landry
Jane McPhee
Past Presidents, Saskatoon Council on Aging

age-friendly, Awards, Events

Age-Friendly Award Comes Home

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The second annual Age-Friendly Community Recognition Award was presented to the City of Saskatoon in council chambers on January 27th, 2019. Presented by Saskatoon Council on Aging [SCOA] Age-Friendly Co-chair Candace Skrapek, the award recognizes the city for its commitment to working to provide an inclusive environment for older adults and supporting age-friendly environments that help seniors age actively.

On December 3, 2019, the City of Saskatoon received the award from the Government of Saskatchewan and the Saskatchewan Seniors Mechanism (SSM) in the provincial Legislature’s fall sitting.

The work that brought this about was the Age-Friendly Saskatoon Initiative [AFSI] project. Led by SCOA, the multiyear project aimed at community change to establish Saskatoon as an age-friendly city. The City of Saskatoon plays a key role to establish clear policy directions for the programs and services needed by older adult citizens.

“By 2025, one-quarter of Saskatoon’s population will be over the age of 65. Planning for this growing, older population is critical.” 1

The city collaborated with the project and implemented some of its outcomes.

To create an age-friendly community, society’s attitudes must shift toward a positive view of aging and older adults. If older adults have opportunities to participate in social and community activities, they maintain connections to other people and the community which contributes to improved quality of life. Due to the enthusiasm, expertise and countless hours provided by older adult volunteers, the AFSI succeeded in its efforts to positively change community conversations about an aging population in Saskatoon.

The City of Saskatoon continues to demonstrate its commitment to this great community work. Following the completion of AFSI in 2017, the City of Saskatoon was granted full membership in the World Health Organization Global Age-friendly Cities Network.

The City of Saskatoon Strategic Plan, 2013 – 2023 identifies “development of age-friendly initiatives to enhance quality of life as people age” 2 as a priority under Quality of Life Strategic Goal.

SCOA looks forward to continuing collaboration to make Saskatoon a truly age-friendly city.  A commitment to respect and inclusion is a true measure of a society’s support for the quality of life of all of its citizens. This latest award marks one more achievement on the journey to an age-friendly Saskatoon.

For further information, contact SCOA 306.652.2255 or visit  our our website
Age-Friendly Saskatoon Initiative:

Read Candace Skrapek’s presentation speech to Saskatoon City Council:
City Council Award 2020

age-friendly, Awards, Events

City Receives Age-friendly award

Dr. Murray Scharf accepted the Age-friendly award on behalf of the City of Saskatoon.

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The City of Saskatoon is honored to accept the Age-Friendly Recognition Award from the Province of Saskatchewan, an award that recognizes success and encourages communities to take sustainable action towards becoming Age-friendly. We commend and thank the Saskatoon Council on Aging (SCOA) for its part in earning this award for the City of Saskatoon

The work that brought this about was a project called the Age-Friendly Saskatoon Initiative that was originated and led by the Saskatoon Council on Aging and aimed at community change intended to establish Saskatoon as an age-friendly city. The City was pleased to cooperate with the project and to implement some of its outcomes.

With the growing population of seniors, the City of Saskatoon recognizes the key role it plays in helping to establish clear policy directions for the programs and services required by older adult citizens.

As the provider of many programs, services and infrastructure for the residents

of Saskatoon, the City works to ensure these structures are responsive to the needs of the residents. Fundamental to creating an age-friendly community is a shift in people’s attitude toward a more positive view of aging and older adults. Enabling older adults to engage in social and community activities helps maintain their connections to other people and the community; all of which contribute to an improved overall quality of life.

A commitment to respect and to include older adults is a true measure of a society’s support for the quality of life and social well-being of all of its citizens. To demonstrate the City’s commitment to this great community work, the City of Saskatoon’s Strategic Plan, 2013 – 2023, under the Strategic Goal of Quality of Life, identified as a priority, “the development of age-friendly initiatives to enhance quality of life as people age”.

The Age-friendly Saskatoon Initiative achieved a significant level of success in its efforts to positively change community conversations about an aging population in Saskatoon. This was largely due to the enthusiasm and expertise that older adult volunteers provided and the thousands of hours that they dedicated over the 5 years of the Initiative to ensure the attainment of the project goals. In 2017, following the completion of the Initiative, the City of Saskatoon applied for and was granted full membership in the WHO Global Age-friendly Cities Network.

We look forward to continuing our collaboration with the Saskatoon Council on Aging                   to make Saskatoon a truly age-friendly city. Thank you once again for this award.

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age-friendly, Important Notices, membership, scoamembership, Services, Uncategorized

Executive Director’s Message

Did you know that the Saskatoon Council on Aging (SCOA) serves over 80,000 older adults in Saskatoon and area?  SCOA is a non-profit organization which began operations in 1991 and is dedicated to promoting positive aging for all in an age-friendly community.

Positive aging means feeling good, as you grow older. The key to positive aging is staying ACTIVE, ENGAGED and INFORMED.

  • You can stay ACTIVE through SCOA’s Globe Walk Program.
  • You can stay ENGAGED through SCOA’s Senior Neighborhood Hub Clubs, Century Club, and Lifelong learning programs.
  • You can stay INFORMED through SCOA’s information/resource centre and caregiver information and support centre and our publications.
  • Through SCOA’s Age Friendly Saskatoon Initiative the City of Saskatoon now belongs to the World Health Organization’s Global Network for Age-friendly Cities and Communities.   The network was established to foster the exchange of experience and mutual learning between cities and communities worldwide who are striving to better meet the needs of their older residents.  .

Some SCOA key projects and partnerships in the last few years that have emerged from the age-friendly initiative include:

  • Development of an Age-friendly lens that is used to encourage organizations to become age-friendly.
  • Building Respectful Inclusive Communities (training for older adults in congregate living how to combat bullying).
  • VIDEO with Saskatoon Fire, Police and Preston Park 1 (training police and fire to work with seniors).
  • Development of a Community Police and Fire Academy for older adults
    The “Remembering When” project with Saskatoon Fire (volunteers will visit you in your home to educate about fire safety)
  • VIDEO with City Transit (learn how to serve older adults and show older adults how to use City Transit).
  • Bus Buddy program(volunteers show older adults how to use transit)
age-friendly, Important Notices, Partners

Saskatoon part of WHO Global Network of Age-Friendly Cities

Message from the Executive DirectorUntitled

Saskatoon has been accepted as part of the World Health Organization’s Global Network for Age-Friendly Cities and Communities!  The application, which included the great work from the Age Friendly Saskatoon Initiative was submitted by the City of Saskatoon with the full support of Mayor and City Council.

Age-friendly communities feature accessible transportation, affordable appropriate housing options, inviting outdoor spaces, quality community and health services, employment and volunteer opportunities, and access to social activities and public events.

SCOA has recently formed an Age Friendly Community Development Committee  with several key stake holders who have an interest is building a positive future for older adults that will continue to ensure that Saskatoon is Age-Friendly.

Our summer student, Thomas, will be contacting members over the summer months to update your information.  Please consider supporting our organization and becoming a full member.  Your support goes directly towards SCOA’s programs and services.

Watch for more exciting updates on our brand new fall programs in the next eNews!

SCOA is very thankful to have many different types of supporters through volunteering, grants, sponsorships and donations  Through providing support it allows SCOA to build a better future for older adults.

Sincerely,

June Gawdun