Originally published in the Tri-City News on May 13th, 2010. To go to the Tri-City News Website please click here
A new group is starting up with the goal of making the Tri-Cities age-friendly.
The group called CARP — A New Vision of Aging for Canada (under its former name, Canadian Association of Retired Persons) has a long history of advocating for seniors on provincial and national stages, with successes on several fronts, including helping get rid of mandatory retirement at age 65.
Now, the group wants to end the stigma attached to aging by encouraging inclusive communities that don’t discriminate against older people.
“Our big issue is agism,” explained Bruce Bird, a Coquitlam resident and 15-year member of CARP who wants to see a Tri-Cities branch of the national organization established. Until now, the Tri-Cities was included in the Fraser Valley/White Rock chapter, where Bird was a past chair.
He would like to see the Tri-Cities become age-friendly like other B.C. communities such as Abbotsford and Saanich, which have committed to improving transportation, making housing and city facilities more affordable and accessible, and encouraging programs where people of all ages mix.
“You get tremendous stories from it. It’s really created an impact for both groups,” said Bird. “In B.C., a school actually invited the people from a nursing home to attend the school to sit in on the classes and interact with the students. Subsequent to that, they took the students over to the nursing home and some of the students and the older people developed tremendous bonds.”
Other age-friendly projects in B.C. include a farm at UBC where students plant vegetables under the tutelage of seniors, and Cordova Bay Community Place, a community centre open to all ages where seniors and students work together to raise money for projects in Africa.
CARP has eliminated its own age requirement and anyone can join. Bird believes the group will appeal to those who believe governments should be more responsive to seniors’ concerns. CARP is active in pension reform, tax reform and pharmacare reform; members get access to discounts, a website and a magazine called Zoomer, published by media mogul Moses Znaimer, executive director of CARP.
Znaimer, the founder of CityTV in Toronto and MuchMusic, has now dedicated his life to issues faced by older people. He started ZoomerMedia and a social-networking group for older people. According to Znaimer, Zoomers are baby boomers who still look forward to life and remain open to new ideas.
Bird believes the time has come for building more inclusive communities because older people will soon be the dominant demographic as baby boomers age. The oldest of those born after the Second World War are now reaching age 65 — a time when many people choose to retire. As well, many younger people are caring for parents who are aging and are interested in seniors’ issues.
“I guess the big thing is that the issues we are fighting for are going to be important for people in a few years,” Bird said.