Wainfleet launching new age-friendly advisory committee

Today’s active, affluent seniors are an economic power, council hears

Oct 25, 2019 by Paul Forsyth, Port Colborne Leader

Seniors take part in a yoga program. Wainfleet is launching a new age-friendly committee to advise council on how to make older adults feel welcomed and included in the community. – Mike Pearson/Torstar

All those fresh-faced young adults and teens you see in film footage from the flower power generation of the 1960s are now seniors with graying hair and the wrinkles that come with age.

But unlike seniors viewed by previous generations as folks better left to hobble off into the sunset, today’s older adults are much more vibrant and an economic power to be reckoned with, Wainfleet council heard on Oct. 22.

The township, the only one of Niagara’s 12 cities and towns not to have or to be already forming an age-friendly committee, will now embark on forming its own committee to advise township politicians on ways to make Wainfleet a place where older people will feel welcomed.

Dominic Ventresca and Doug Rapelje — both former directors of senior services for the region — who are playing key roles in promoting age-friendly initiatives in Niagara, told Wainfleet council that it makes good economic sense to pay close attention to what seniors want out of life in their communities.

Ventresca, co-chair of the Age-Friendly Niagara Network, said there have been huge shifts in the longevity and lifestyles of older people.

“It’s an unprecedented phenomenon in the history of mankind having this many older people living this long, being well, active, healthier, contributing to the community,” he said.

Statistics show Niagara has one of the greatest numbers of seniors in Canada, with 21.4 per cent of folks here aged 65-plus, said Ventresca. That’s about 28 per cent higher than the Ontario average, he said.

At the launch of the Niagara Aging Strategy and Action plan in 2015, Brock University political science professor Davie Siegel said the shift of the giant postwar baby boomer population into their golden years creates both challenges and opportunities for Niagara.

Today’s seniors often have good pension plans and are well-off financially, are much more likely to donate financially to charity and volunteer in their community — compared to the population at large — and will create demand for specialty products and recreation for older people, said Siegel.

But they’ll also drive the need for expensive long-term care beds, transit and health care, he said.