Friendly for all: Lincoln’s age-friendly committee focuses on inclusivity

By Luke EdwardsReporter

Thu., June 3, 2021

When Lincoln’s age-friendly committee formed, members were eager to make the town welcoming not just to seniors, but to people of all ages. 

After all, the group’s mission statement describes ensuring quality of life for people at all stages of life. 

But what they couldn’t have predicted was a global pandemic that would highlight some of the issues many face in maintaining that quality of life. Despite the issues brought to the fore as a result of COVID-19, not to mention the challenges in meeting and running a committee during restrictions and lockdowns, its members are thrilled with the work they’ve accomplished to date.

“We’ve been able to achieve a lot for the circumstances we are under,” said Lynn Timmers, deputy mayor and one of council’s representatives on the committee.

One of the biggest achievements — being designated age-friendly by the World Health Organization — hasn’t been finalized yet, but members are hopeful it will be in the next year. 

“Being age-friendly designated would really elevate our status as a community, that we are all inclusive,” said Timmers.

“It was a really in-depth and comprehensive application,” added Charlotte Sheridan, chair of the committee.

During her time on the committee, and especially since the onset of the pandemic, Sheridan said she’s learned just how crippling isolation can be if the community doesn’t work together.

“For me, I think it’s the isolation piece that really hit home,” she said. She has friends who essentially haven’t left their small apartments in over a year. Others had to face the isolation of living in long-term-care homes on lockdown, or who simply didn’t have means to connect with people.

“That’s an issue, and COVID just made it worse,” she said.

But the municipality and local agencies have figured out ways to help. Lori Laird, recreation co-ordinator with the town, described some of the ways they changed programming to ensure isolation was kept at a minimum. Its Seniors Centres Without Walls program, for instance, has elderly people connect regularly through phone calls.

“That’s a really simple way for seniors to connect with each other and chat without having to have that technology knowledge,” said Laird.

Town staff have also continued regular wellness checks, something that other groups like Rose Cottage Visiting Volunteers also conduct.

And for those older people who want to learn how to connect with technology, the Cyber Seniors group is able to get them set up, added Timmers.

As the pandemic hopefully recedes in the coming months, in-person programming will return. However, Laird and Timmers said there are some things they’ve learned throughout the pandemic that can be used in the future to make Lincoln more age-friendly.

Laird stresses that age-friendly doesn’t just mean senior-friendly. While June is Seniors’ Month and a lot of the town’s programming seems focused on seniors on first blush, in many ways, she said it’s all encompassing.

“If you have an accessible walkway, it’s (also) good for parents with strollers, or children in a wheelchair,” she said.

One area Laird sees as having potential is with intergenerational programming, bringing together Lincoln’s residents of all ages.

“Our seniors have so much to teach, but also have such great opportunity to learn from our young people and youth,” she said.

Lincoln Mayor Sandra Easton said Seniors’ Month is a great time to “honour the ongoing contribution of older adults to our community.”

“Through initiatives such as the age-friendly advisory committee, we are prioritizing the voice of older adults and ensuring that their views, desires and needs are considered in everything we do.”

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