The City of Summerside is focusing on becoming an age-friendly community.
It’s a project fostered by the World Health Organization's global network of age-friendly cities and communities. This particular program would allow Summerside access to an international network of experts on aging and access to the latest research and information on age-related issues.
To join the network, the city would need to develop an assessment of the age-friendliness of the municipality in areas of outdoor spaces and buildings, transportation, housing, social participation, respect and inclusion, civic participation and employment, communication and information and community support and health services.
Earlier this week Councillor Peter Holman, the city’s liaison to the East Prince Seniors Initiative, announced that a 12-member committee is being formed from which eight subcommittees will be struck to address eight categories required by the World Health Organization.
This initiative deals with seniors and is aimed at making Summerside a seniors-friendly city.
This is all well and good. Seniors are a valuable asset to any community. Their experience, knowledge and talents can go a long way in improving the quality of life.
But the city needs to put as much effort in and emphasis on attracting young families to Summerside.
This is the sector of the population that drives the local economy. They spend money. They support local business to a level that the senior population does not.
It’s families that buy children’s clothing, shoes, toys, books, electronics and school supplies.
Anyone with children knows that these expenses are not just a one shot deal and go on throughout childhood and into the teenage years.
Youth are the main customers at the many fast food outlets in the city and department stores. They all seem to have disposable income and are not timid about spending it.
Nothing stimulates a community more than an influx of young people.
Downtown Summerside took on a new life with the opening to the Holland College Summerside Waterfront Campus last year. Having more that 200 new students and faculty in the downtown gave the area a whole new dynamic.
There needs to be more of this.
There is a fear among some that Summerside is promoting itself as a retirement community.
Mayor Basil Stewart said that is not the case.
“You've got to get the parents here in order to get the younger crowd,” Stewart said. “We’re always looking to try and get business here and jobs, and when that happens you get the young kids here as well.”
Now that the seniors’ initiative is off the ground, civic officials need to switch their focus to developing a similar plan to bring young families to Summerside.