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Seniors face obstacles on P.E.I.

Summerside resident Harriet Worden, who was in Charlottetown March 16 for a community forum on aging, housing and diversity, says seniors need more transportation options.  ©THE GUARDIAN
Summerside resident Harriet Worden, who was in Charlottetown March 16 for a community forum on aging, housing and diversity, says seniors need more transportation options. ©THE GUARDIAN - Katie Smith

Harriet Worden has mobility issues.

The Summerside senior can only see out of one eye and walks with a cane due to poor balance.

She said she’d like to see more transportation options made available for seniors.

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Worden, who spoke to The Guardian following a forum held in Charlottetown on Friday, is a committee member of the Summerside Age-friendly City Committee (AFCC).

The AFCC, along with the Eastern Prince Seniors Initiative (EPSI), the P.E.I. Association for Newcomers to Canada (PEIANC) and UPEI, has partnered with the Atlantic Region Group on Economics of Immigration Aging and Diversity (ARGEIAD) from St. Mary’s University to present the forum focused on aging, housing and diversity.

Because Worden can no longer drive, she relies on her family or on public transportation to get from point A to point B.

“My family all work, so if I have an appointment and they can’t take me, then I have to pay for a taxi and that gets expensive,” she said. “For a person on a pension like I am, it’s practically impossible to afford.”

In a region with a large aging population, concerns like Worden’s is one of many facing seniors Island-wide.

Shirlene O’Brien, AFCC co-ordinator, said that more than 60 per cent, or two-thirds, of Summerside’s population is over the age of 60.

While there are issues like transportation, which are a problem for seniors, O’Brien said there’s one even more glaring issue – housing.

“I think that the fact that we have a growing seniors population, housing certainly is an issue and it’s going to continue.”

Because of the aging population, the AFCC and EPSI were formed to help come up with solutions to make life better for the elderly.

One way this is being done is how Slemon Park adopted the World Health Organization’s (WHO) age-friendly concept and began retrofitting homes to make them more accessible, O’Brien said, adding the WHO concept, has eight domains, including housing, transportation, communications and information, civic participation, employment, community health, social participation, social inclusion.

Summerside also recently completed what O’Brien called “a wonderfully successful inter-generational project” where youth were matched with seniors according to shared interests.

“Our seniors were learning from the students,” she said. “We found that the seniors had a really good time and the kids loved it. We couldn’t believe how much they liked it.”

Worden, who moved to the Island from Ontario three years ago, said despite the fact there are issues facing seniors, she is grateful to be living in a place with so much community support and outreach, something she said she wouldn’t have found in her home province.

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