Essay submitted by Connie Newman
Executive Director, Manitoba Association of Senior Centres
Imagine you’re an older adult who is taking the bus to Winnipeg for a specialist medical appointment.
How do you get to the appointment from the bus stop? If you no longer drive, what services are available to ensure you can access the necessities?
In COVID times, keeping us all in good health and staying connected has become even more difficult. We can support our older adults by building Age Friendly communities, which help seniors to live safely, enjoy good health, and stay involved.
As the example above illustrates, transportation is an important principle of Age Friendly communities. Depending on where one lives, transportation is key to active community involvement. If each of us is involved in some aspect of our community, our community will be a better place; such community involvement is another key principle of an Age Friendly community.
It is so very important for all of us to connect to others in a safe way, whether that is on the phone, through the internet, or with snail mail. This social participation is one of the domains of Age Friendly communities. I often think about my neighbours and wonder how and whether they are connecting to each other, and how I can get involved. It takes an entire community to look after one another. We must work together to ensure the best quality of life for all. Respect for each other is the foundation of Age Friendly communities.
As a semi-retiree now, I look back on the nearly 35 years I spent working in education. Within the school system in the late ’70s, skateboards were everywhere – on streets and parking lots – and teenagers were at-risk of being hurt by traffic. Something needed to be done, so as a neighbourhood we decided to work together to find a solution.
I brought together parents, students, community leaders and potential developers. A plan was hatched to create a community space. Our objectives included fundraising, connecting to sponsors, and developing a design ensuring input from youth and community. Collectively, we built Skatepark West at the corner of Sturgeon Road and Silver Avenue. The project was community-inspired, with support from all three levels of government. The park remains a hub of activity for many ages in a wide-open corner of ‘sunny’ St. James.
Today, I still connect with our Neighbourhood Resource Network – a group that comes together and collaborates on the many aspects of community life – including programming for pre-school, seniors, and everything in between. Maintaining and growing networks is critical for healthy and productive Age Friendly communities.
Currently, we are in the process of transforming the St. James Civic Centre into a multigenerational building. This means it will be open and welcoming to everyone, whether they are eight months or 80; this is an Age Friendly principle. The renovations are a work in progress, and having the community, partners, donors and government realize the value of multigenerational spaces is a dream for many in our community.
In my ideal community, we think beyond age silos and cultural silos. Residents are friendly to each other and assist one another. A simple nod or a “hi” as we cross paths – such a random act of kindness goes a long way.
Connie Newman is 72 years young. Before retiring in 2004, she worked as a junior high Teacher and Principal for 34 years in St. James Assiniboia School Division. An independent boomer, she has many connections in Manitoba, Canada and beyond.
Currently, Connie is Executive Director (consultant) for the Manitoba Association of Senior Centres. She connects with member centres to provide guidance and encouragement. She is a member of Manitoba’s Age Friendly Resource Team which provides her with opportunities to connect with local Age Friendly committees all around Manitoba and Canada.
Connie believes in active aging and community development. Keeping her mind and body active helps her to assist those who may need information and support as we all age together. She believes that giving back and giving to others is important; we can all give in some form, it makes our city, province and country a much better place.