Half of the population of Midway is over the age of 60. Province-wide, the 50 per cent marker sits at 43 years old. Recognizing that the community is only going to keep getting older, given current projections, the village has accepted that a discussion on adapting to aging has become a necessary talk to have and leaders are inviting the town to have its say.
On June 6, dozens of seniors sat around tables at the Midway Community Hall to lay out their priorities at a session which Midway mayor Martin Fromme called “community building community.”
Healthy aging and community building expert James van Hemert took charge to organize people’s thoughts around offering solutions to some of the challenges rural living can pose for senior citizens.
“There’s no reason why seniors should be sitting at home alone and hurting,” said van Hemert, addressing a concern about loneliness among seniors. “There’s no reason for that today.”
Instead, van Hemert, 58, said that with the right infrastructure and supports in place, aging can be rewarding.
“I think if we stay healthy and active and we’re in a community that is aging-friendly, these can be the best years.”
The first step of the meeting was getting the attendees to write down their hopes and fears regarding eight pillars to a healthy community: housing, transportation, social participation, respect, civic participation, communication, community support and health services, and finally outdoor spaces and buildings.
By far, community support and health services garnered the most hopes and fears. Seniors emphasized a need for regular, stable and more comprehensive medical services. One person noted that in their decade living in Midway, they’ve gone through four family doctors. The top health-care fears revolved around health-care services leaving Midway, and consequently, the worry that people would have to move closer to services as they age, leaving the community for good.
A 2017 B.C. government report suggested that only 14 per cent of the province’s population lives in a rural area, such as the Boundary, and that the number is continually shrinking. With seniors feeling like they need to leave their hometowns to follow medical services because appropriate transportation options like busses aren’t available, that trend could accelerate too.
The ideas suggested by people at the meeting also offered inspiration to decision makers. Hopes were expressed to see a revitalized business core to bring a variety of businesses to town, access to yoga classes and technology courses to help seniors stay fit and engaged and more community events to offer opportunities to contribute and socialize.
Ironically, the building where last week’s meeting was held, the Midway Community Hall, came under scrutiny too: it’s access ramp is bumpy, cracked and apparently unsafe.
For people who weren’t able to provide their feedback at last week’s meeting, the village has put out an online survey to collect residents’ thoughts on the eight pillars of the process. The city will also be hosting a follow-up public meeting on July 17.