Following several months of public consultation, including a survey which drew 119 responses and a response rate of 21 per cent, the Village of Cache Creek presented a draft of its Age-Friendly Plan at an open house on March 2. More than three dozen people turned up to review and ask questions about the plan, and provide more feedback about the issues and concerns that were uppermost in their minds.
Cache Creek received a $20,000 grant last year from the Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) to research and develop the Age-Friendly Plan, a tool that will be used by the Village of Cache Creek to better help and support seniors in the community. Cache Creek CAO Keir Gervais; Maren Luciani, Principal of Luciani Urban Planning and Design, who facilitated the project; Nancy Kendall, the Program Coordinator for Better at Home in Cache Creek and Ashcroft; and Clare Audet, Environmental Health Officer for Interior Health were all at the open house to answer questions, and sat down with The Journal to discuss the draft plan and the next steps.
“We compiled all the input and feedback from the first two phases: what we heard as people weighed in with comments, concerns, and questions,” says Luciani. The draft plan focuses on seven different areas: housing; transportation; information systems; community support and health services; respect, social participation, and inclusion; outdoor spaces and buildings; and civic participation and employment.
“There was nothing unexpected,” says Luciani. “People are pleased with the draft plan.”
“I think we got it right,” says Gervais. “Maren identified three of the seven themes—affordable housing, transportation, and information about what services are available—as getting the majority of feedback.”
“Providing information about services is low-hanging fruit; we can do that via the website, via a booklet, and on bulletin boards, and increase the frequency, amount, and type of information out there.” Among the policies and actions suggested in the draft plan are compiling a list of aging in place guides, brochures, and other resources; investigating opportunities to improve WiFi in public buildings; creating a Village web presence that outlines community resources specifically dedicated to Cache Creek seniors; and having two bulletin board locations within the Village for posting seniors’-specific information.
Gervais says that council has identified transportation as a priority for 2017/18. “What are our local needs, and is there a gap we can fill?” Policies and actions in the draft plan that address transportation include investigating all options to provide public transportation for Cache Creek residents to access neighbouring communities; developing an information brochure on existing transportation options; and working with the Ministry of Transportation to ensure streetscape improvements are included and implemented in the Highway 97 expansion project.
The Village of Cache Creek has received a $15,000 stream 2 funding grant from UBCM to further study one thing from the stream one program, and a housing needs assessment for seniors has been selected. Luciani has been awarded the contract for the assessment, which will continue the planning process and follow up on the policies and actions suggested in the draft plan. These include developing a guide for the development of suites, to increase affordable and accessible housing for seniors; developing affordable housing policies in the Official Community Plan; and considering the use of incentives in the Zoning Bylaw for affordable seniors’ housing. Feedback indicates that there is a need in Cache Creek for more housing choices for aging residents.
Gervais says that the feedback about the draft plan indicates a need to better promote what the Village has to offer. “There were questions about the cemetery. People didn’t know how to go about reserving space there. How do we do a better job promoting all that we have, such as senior-specific programs at the pool?”
Audet notes that social cohesion is vital. “People need opportunities to come together. People want to connect, and becoming part of a group will add to their life.”
Kendall agrees, citing the proposed community garden as an example. “I’ve had a couple of ladies say they won’t do the gardening, but they’ll go for social reasons, for something to look forward to.”
Gervais says that “People like that this looks specifically at seniors’ needs. And we call them seniors, but that encompasses a wide range of ages and needs. Some don’t need support; they’re looking for more activities.”
“There are two pieces to the puzzle,” says Luciani. “Some people say they need the support now, and some say when will this be implemented, because they’re afraid they will have to leave in the future. This plan is a 20 year visionary document that will be implemented over many years as funds permit.”
Audet notes that people have indicated they want to age in place, and that the two most popular themes—housing and transportation—are needs, not wants. “And people need a location in the centre of Cache Creek where they can come to and connect with others.”
“This [draft plan] is a starting point for the community,” says Luciani. “It will be built on over the years.” The next step will be to compile the results of the feedback received at the open house, make any necessary changes to the draft plan, and then have the final plan adopted by council, who can then start working on implementing the policies and actions. A copy of the final plan will be available on the Age-Friendly page of the Village of Cache Creek’s website (http://bit.ly/2H3HcK2).
“We’ve begun the engagement process, hearing from close to 150 seniors,” says Gervais. “We need to keep up that momentum.”
“It’s a community-driven process,” adds Luciani. “It’s not just for the mayor and council to move along. We need to create opportunities, programs, and social events for seniors.”