Saskatchewan Seniors Mechanism helping to build age-friendly communities
Every year, the Saskatchewan Seniors Mechanism (SSM) works with community leaders and organizations to improve the quality of life for older adults across Saskatchewan.
That includes an initiative addressing age-friendly communities. The movement, established by the World Health Organization, promotes amenities and services that are accessible to people of all ages and abilities.
“Age-friendly communities are all about keeping people active, socially involved, involved in activities, physically involved in recreation and involved in decision-making,” said Holly Schick, Executive Director of the SSM.
The SSM is currently engaging representatives in 11 Saskatchewan communities, including Humboldt, Moose Jaw, Saskatoon and Regina, that are working towards becoming more age friendly.
These discussions can focus on many aspects of life within the community, including outdoor spaces and buildings, transportation, housing, social participation, employment and community support and health services, among others.
Schick said the initiative has really taken off in the last year. She pointed to projects improving mobility and access to sidewalk ramps that can significantly benefit a community.
Catherine Barnsley, an SSM staff member, said that the initiative has been rewarding.
“In the age-friendly committees, we were involving the communities in monthly Zoom events throughout the last year where they were sharing ideas of what they would do and I was facilitating that. So that was a very moving experience for me, because there's no way they would all be able to drive to a day-long conference, even if we've been able to have them,” said Barnsley.
The work of the SSM, which is among the 12,000 sport, culture and recreation groups supported by Sask Lotteries, also extends to other areas.
When many activities went virtual as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the SSM created a presentation on the impact of isolation on the mental health of older adults.
Raising awareness about ageism and promoting the many valuable and important contributions older adults are making to communities across the province are other priorities for the organization.
“The reality is (older adults are) very much a high percentage of the volunteers and are the people that are very active in keeping their communities going. So we've been doing work around trying to make people more aware of ageism, language, ages and attitudes,” said Schick.