The District of Houston website could soon sport a digital badge from the provincial government on its website proclaiming it as an age-friendly community.
The designation, Houston is one of 10 B.C. communities this year to be provided the digital marker, recognizes progress made “to ensure British Columbia seniors can live active, socially engaged and independent lives,” states a provincial press release.
As with many B.C. communities, Houston has a growing number of senior citizens as a percentage of the general population.
The 2016 Canada Census data indicates that seniors aged 65 and older now comprise 14 per cent of Houston’s population. This has increased from 12 per cent in 2011.
A 2014 assessment commissioned by the District of Houston revealed a number of challenges seniors face in everyday life, not all of which are within the mandate of the District.
The list included sidewalk and roadway maintenance during winter months, affordable and accessible transportation, supportive and assisted living facilities, access to recreation, sports and other social programs, access to educational opportunities, discrimination and racism against certain groups of older adults, lack of information regarding age-friendly activities, lack of 24-hour health care services and lack of services to help older adults stay in their homes as they age.
Since then the District has been working steadily on projects and improvements, noted District chief administrative officer Gerald Pinchbeck.
”This includes the installation of a sidewalk on Poulton Avenue between 10th St and 11th St, the introduction of a Revitalization Tax Exemption program which encourages businesses to renovate their buildings to meet current BC Building Code standards for accessibility, the installation of a sidewalk on the north side of Highway 16, and the replacement of the sidewalk on 14th St W by the health centre,” he noted.
As well, Pinchbeck said the District continues to review potential projects with an eye on senior government grant programs that could provide the needed financing.
”Additionally, non-profits and community organizations which have a project plan are encouraged to reach out to the District for grant research and administration assistance,” he added.
Council has also continued to press senior governments for more local health care services for seniors as well as stating the need for additional supportive and assisted living housing options to meet the needs of an aging population.
Those issues were raised by council members in meetings with provincial officials last week at the annual Union of B.C. Municipalities convention in Vancouver.