Opinion: Castlegar Council needs better audio and better listening skills

Senior calls council out for its attitude

Letter to Mayor and Councillors,

Glen and I attended the council meeting on Monday July 16. We usually watch the council meetings on Channel 10 but in this instance we were there to support Sandi MCreight and Brittany Scott with the Age-Friendly Communities Initiative. After the presentation we remained as long as we could to hear the further issues discussed by Council.

We found it difficult to hear participants at the meeting. It required that we listen intently trying to concentrate on hearing rather than absorbing the words spoken. We overheard other members of the gallery eventually leaving complaining that it was just too difficult to hear. If you have not heard this before, the Council definitely needs a better audio system! Fortunately, on the following Wednesday we were able to view the meeting on Channel 10.

Aside from that issue, I would like to share thoughts on the reception of the Age Friendly Community Initiative report presented by Sandi McCreight and Brittany Scott. We are seniors and we are aware of the vicissitudes of ageing. That said it was a hopeful signal to us that Council was participating in this UBCM initiative.

However, the response from Councillors to the presentation by Sandi and Brittany was rather ambivalent. One councillor asked when the seniors tell you what they want, do you discuss with them where the money will come from? Another councillor offered that perhaps other levels of government would be more appropriate to approach with this initiative, or that IHA should be approached. Thankfully, a more interested councillor asked for an overview of one of the seniors’ initiatives, the IRIS program.

My understanding of the Age Friendly Initiative is that it is a UBCM initiative— meaning local government, i.e. City of Castlegar which means you, our Mayor and Councillors. A Castlegar News article from this past January announced that the Age Friendly Communities Grant with the City in partnership with Community Response Network is to be used for an “assessment and action plan.” Sandi and Brittany presented an update to the assessment. If Council’s idea of an action plan is to pass the responsibility to other levels of government or to expect the seniors of this city to come up with an economic argument for expanding capacity of services to seniors, then what was the point in participating in this initiative?

Stats Canada indicates that almost 30% of the population of Castlegar is 60 years and older. The last of the baby boom generation will not turn 65 years old until 2031. Seniors are living decades longer. There is no doubt the percentage of seniors over 60 years of age in Castlegar will increase.

Many of us (seniors) have spent our entire lives in Castlegar paying taxes, raising children, supporting local businesses, working for or operating local businesses, volunteering for community service organizations. To now be expected to come up with a financial plan for making our community age friendly is in my opinion insulting.

Seniors now more than ever are called upon to volunteer in our community. I am a board member of a non-profit society that supports housing for seniors of low to moderate income. The youngest member of our board is 67 years old. When I look at other service organizations, seniors dominate.

To dismiss the concerns of seniors by suggesting that responsibility for their concerns be assigned to other levels of government or authorities such as IHA, or to suggest that seniors are coming with cap in hand is at best folly and at worst political and economic incompetence.

The audio problem at the Council meetings that I noted at the beginning of this communication is an easy fix. Certainly the ambivalence to seniors’ issues presents a larger challenge. It is my sincere hope that whomever sits at the Council table after the election this year will appreciate and acknowledge the very substantial contribution that seniors make to our community; and, will be ready to work towards increasing services for seniors and the capacity of those services in our city. After all, isn’t that what the City signed up for when it entered the partnership with Community Response Network in the Age Friendly Communities Initiative?

Marsha Carew, Senior Citizen

Castlegar

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