Fort Frances has been designated an “Age-Friendly Community” but there’s still plenty of work to be done.
The town was chosen to receive a 2018 Ontario Age-Friendly Community Recognition Award next week in Toronto.
“We’ve been working toward this [since] September or October of 2016,” local Age-Friendly Community Committee co-ordinator Ian Simpson told the Times.
“Right from the get-go, everything we did was to put us in the right place to be able to get this recognition,” he noted.
“We looked at the criteria to be recognized as an ‘Age-Friendly Community,’ and then we set out to meet those criteria,” Simpson added.
Since late 2016, the committee conducted a survey, held focus groups, made presentations to seniors and the Fort Frances Chamber of Commerce, and met with partners and stakeholders representing “as many groups as we could think of,” said Simpson.
“We did the survey, we did all of the information gathering,” he stressed.
“We created our mission, vision, and values, and then an action plan.”
The latter probably is the most vital of the criteria met and sets the stage for what now needs to be done here, Simpson explained.
A first draft was unveiled last spring and it was refined further this past fall.
“We’re now into the stage where we’re going to be implementing our action plan,” Simpson said.
“We’re trying to do it in baby steps; take about three things at a time and work on them,” he noted.
One of the prime items is assisted living housing here.
“We are going to explore the possible ways that we can get an assisted-living facility here in Fort Frances,” Simpson remarked.
“We are going to look at what’s happening in other communities, and talk to possible companies or people that might be interested in building such a facility.
“We are going to look at all of the possibilities,” he added. “What happens in other communities? Do they fund it through the town? Is it private or publicly-owned?
“So we are going to look at that and try to get something done as quickly as possible.
“Assisted living has been tossed around for so many years,” Simpson conceded. “We want to see if we can get moving on it.
“It is a big priority.”
Simpson said being recognized as an “Age-Friendly Community” gives the local committee access to all kinds of resources and support.
“Now I am participating in webinars. There’s a Northern Ontario group and we’re going to meetings in Thunder Bay,” he noted, adding the local group also has access to provincial resources.
Formal recognition from the province also enables the town to have access to national recognition through the Pan-Canadian AFC Recognition Framework developed by the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC).
“And this does trigger, eventually, access to being recognized by the World Health Organization [WHO], which gives us even more access to more support and more resources,” said Simpson, referring to WHO’s Global Network of Age-Friendly Cities and Communities.
Having the “Age-Friendly Community” designation also helps when applying for grants and funding for older adults’ projects and programs, as does having an action plan and the fact the local committee has worked hand-in-hand with various organizations in the community.
Simpson said it will be good for the town to be known as an “Age-Friendly Community” and, in fact, the achievement meets one of the items in the town’s most recent strategic plan.
“I think it’s going to be a very positive step for the community, and especially older adults,” he enthused.
The committee has been invited to attend the inaugural Age-Friendly Community (AFC) Symposium in Toronto on March 26, where the award will be presented.
Simspon said a representative from here will attend.
The inaugural AFC symposium has been established “to celebrate the work of Ontario communities that are striving to become ‘age-friendly’ and to showcase promising practices across the province,” Dipika Damerla, the minister responsible for seniors affairs, wrote in a letter to Simpson.
“Congratulations on your achievements, and thank you for your commitment to creating an age-friendly Ontario,” she concluded.
“Your efforts make Ontario a better place for seniors, and help to strengthen our communities and our province.”
Damerla noted “age-friendly” communities are characterized by accessible and inclusive environments, both physical and social, that enable seniors to live independent, healthy and active, safe, and socially-connected lives.
“Communities selected for the award demonstrate a strong commitment to key principles for creating ‘age-friendly’ communities, including engagement with local seniors, collaboration with a diversity of community partners, and significant impact on the local community,” she explained.