Seniors worried about cost of aging in place 

Data from MAC survey presented to community

Seniors have had their say about life in Whistler in a recent survey and the results reveal much about "aging in place" in the resort community.

The cost of living, the cost of housing/taxes, and health care, rated as the top three concerns for those looking to retire, or already retired in Whistler.

That doesn't come as a surprise, said Mayor Ken Melamed, who was part of the panel discussion at Millennium Place Monday night where dozens of seniors and those thinking about retiring in Whistler one day, came to hear the results of the survey.

"Whistler has a hard time being affordable no matter what age you are," admitted the mayor.

The Mature Action Committee (MAC) conducted the online survey with a goal of bringing greater awareness of seniors' issues to the community. One-hundred-and-eighty-one people responded to the questions - the majority lived in Whistler and were in the 45-64 age category.

"We are the fastest growing demographic in Whistler," explained MAC president Gord Leidal.

Other highlights from the survey revealed that 64 per cent of respondents earned a household income of less than $80,000.

The majority of people visited their GP in Whistler and rated their health as good or better than good; this, despite listing chronic conditions such as arthritis, hypertension, and osteoporosis.

It's interesting, said panel speaker Dr. Hugh Fisher, that the seniors didn't think they were sick.

"That's what characterizes Whistler," he added. "These are just conditions. These are just hurdles to leap."

Seniors also said they wanted to see more improvements to safety in Whistler, such as improved snow and ice clearing on the sidewalks and the parking lots.

They also said support services in Whistler were lacking, such as home support, visiting nurses and counseling services.

That may be due to a lack of knowledge of what's available here, rather than the lack of services.

Other revealing parts of the survey showed that the majority of seniors, or those close to retiring, wanted to see a seniors centre and also wanted a seniors/advocate or coordinator to lobby on their behalf.

Leidal explained that a 1,500 square foot centre is slated to go into the seniors housing complex at the Holborn development (on the tennis club lands) but it is not clear when that project will move ahead.

"We see that as working quite well for a community our size," he said.

Rainbow developer Rod Nadeau was also on hand to provide information about the condo-style seniors complex in that new neighbourhood.

The Woods at Rainbow will be two buildings with 40 one- and two-bedroom units for seniors.

Seniors will also be moving into the new athletes' village/Cheakamus Crossing neighbourhood after the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

And, if they had their druthers, seniors would like to see a curling facility in Whistler, educational classes and Tai Chi and bowling.

And while there were no promises of seeing any of those come to pass any time soon, there was a sense that the survey's information will be crucial in lobbying for change in the future.

"The contribution that this demographic provides to Whistler is just so important," said Melamed.

"Very clearly there's some compelling information here."



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