In the past couple of months you may have seen groups of seniors, older adults, and volunteers roaming the streets of Clearwater followed by Clearwater Secondary School film student Patrick Roach.
No, this wasn’t the start of a new Clearwater based reality television show on the secret lives of seniors; it’s actually a rather progressive research method called field assessments or field trips where researchers get to see firsthand the kinds of assistance received and challenges faced by seniors and older adults in Clearwater today.
The field trips are part of a community-based research and planning project called ‘From Front Door to Grocery Store: Getting Seniors Where They Want To Be’. This collaborative project, made up of many community groups, the District of Clearwater, and the Community Development Institute (UNBC), explores seniors mobility needs, challenges, and supports in Clearwater.
The field trips began in late August. The District decided to take the lead on these trips by volunteering their future premises as the site of a practice assessment on Aug. 23.
“It is integral that we address issues like mobility and accessibility with the shift we are experiencing towards an aging population in Clearwater. We jumped at this opportunity to get the ball rolling on the field assessments, to be able to show our community how important it is to participate in these activities. We anticipant the ability to implement quick wins as we go along,” said District CAO Leslie Groulx.
During this trip a group of District employees, researchers and volunteers journeyed through Dutch Lake Elementary School while exploring mobility alongside an individual with a visual impairment. For some volunteers, this was their first encounter with mobility challenges and they were surprised at what they discovered. Fourteen-year-old Meagan Sim volunteered to film the outing, and for her the experience was nothing short of eye-opening.
“I didn’t know how much I take for granted. It was really interesting hearing how much difficulty someone could have with a doorway or with stairs, things I don’t even think about,” Sim said.
The trip was also a great learning experience for District employees who were discussing the renovations to their future accessible office space and community centre – a centre that will include a senior’s drop-in space.
Council has been very firm in its commitment to ensuring the new space is mobility friendly and receiving input from the assessments has proven invaluable.
“As the district moves forward in creating a new community space it is critical that we listen to the suggestions and needs of our seniors. Being truly “mobility friendly” means more than meeting the standards of the building code. In fact, the code should be considered the floor and not the ceiling. Simply, we must do more to ensure mobility for all of our citizens. We intend to be a leader in implementing real solutions to create an Age Friendly Community. We hope that everyone will consider the needs of their fellow residents and make our community better for all,” said councillor Barry Banford.
The community field trips done since this practice trip have been overwhelmingly positive. The participants provided a great deal of useful information on mobility in Clearwater, the volunteers ensured all the participants were safe and diligently recorded the barriers and supports uncovered, the business and service managers welcomed us into their spaces, and CSS student Patrick Roach sacrificed his mornings for three weeks to capture the excitement of these trips on film; his ample knowledge of technology, creative eye for filming and endless patience was greatly appreciated during these trips.
The ‘Front Door to Grocery Store’ team would like to thank everyone who has been involved to date; this project would not be such a success without assistance from all of the dedicated volunteers.
Now that the first round of field trips is complete, the information gathered will be transferred into a workshop where barriers and supports will be reviewed, priorities will be determined, and solutions will be generated. The workshop will be open to all community members and will take place on Jan. 17 (location to be announced). Business owners, services providers, club members and any interested members of the general public are encouraged to attend these workshops.
For more information about this opportunity, feel free to contact Shelley at 674-1968 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or Jessica at 674-1946 or email@example.com.