ARICHAT: The municipality received provincial funding to develop an age-friendly plan and is hiring a consultant to implement it.

Sharla Mombourquette-Sampson, physical activity leadership coordinator with Richmond County’s Department of Recreation, Leisure and Community Relations, said the successful candidate will develop a plan so that policies, services and structures are designed to help older residents.

The program dates back to 2013 when the municipality collaborated with the Nova Scotia Centre on Aging, Mount Saint Vincent University and the Nova Scotia Department of Seniors to elicit input on the age-friendly assets and challenges in communities. A summary report from those consultations was drafted in January 2013 and since then, the municipality has received funding from the Nova Scotia Department of Seniors on two occasions to further the development of an age friendly plan.

Earlier this month, Minister of Seniors Leo Glavine announced 16 recipients of the Age Friendly Community Grant program, including $6,000 to the Municipality of the County of Richmond. The grant program provides funding of up to $25,000 for projects that fall into one of two categories: age-friendly community planning and community projects.

Mombourquette-Sampson said the municipality and the consultant will be looking closely at the province’s SHIFT action plan, as well as feedback from community consultations held last year for the development of the municipal strategic plan. And Richmond County’s community trends will be determined by the consultant through a number of consultations.

According to the result of the 2016 Canadian Census, the average age in Richmond County is 48 and seniors are 29.7 per cent of the municipality’s population, both of which are well over national and provincial averages.

Mombourqette-Sampson explained that age-friendly communities are highlighted through eight domains: the built environment, transport, housing, social participation, respect and social inclusion, civic participation and employment, communication, and community support and health services.

“An age-friendly world enables people of all ages to actively participate in community activities and treats everyone with respect, regardless of their age,” Mombourquette-Sampson said.

The municipal official said that when applying an age-friendly lens to built environments, governments can maximize public spaces and avoid the expense of retrofitting buildings; public transit helps prevent sedentary living and allows communities benefit from the contributions of older adults; and programs that support social inclusion ease the stress of caring for older relatives and allow for the kind of work from older people that helps build strong communities.

“These proposals benefit not just older people, but women, children, families and the taxpayer,” Mombourquette-Sampson noted. “To put it simply, rural spaces that work for older people, work for everyone.”

The deadline to submit a Request For Proposals was January 19 and once municipal officials review the submissions and choose a successful bid, Mombourquette-Sampson said they will then determine a hiring date.

The next provincial application deadline is February 1. Information and application forms are available at: www.novascotia.ca/age-friendly-grant or by calling 902-424-0770 or toll-free 1-844-277-0770. The grant program is one of more than 50 actions identified in SHIFT: Nova Scotia’s Action Plan for An Aging Population. The plan is available at: www.novascotia.ca/age-friendly-grant.