Age-friendly Innovations in Granisle Create a Healthier Community for All

Thanks to innovative planning and multi-sectoral collaboration, the Village of Granisle is a thriving community as well as a vivid demonstration of how age-friendly policies improve health and wellness for community members of all ages.

Zarna Dilley, a senior resident of the Village of Granisle in northern BC, has a busy schedule: “I’m on the Village Council, I am secretary-treasurer of the Rod and Gun club, I volunteer with the fire department and other organizations, and I carpet-bowl and play darts. It’s always a good day to carpet bowl.” The wide range of accessible, inclusive activities and services available in Granisle for Dilley and other residents represents a triumph for a community that has recovered from some tough years and is now more thriving than ever.

The Village of Granisle has been through some huge changes in its relatively short life. Built in the early 1970s by a mining company, it was an active community until last of the mines closed in 1992. The population dropped from 2000 residents to 350, 65% of whom are seniors. The pristine wilderness surrounding the village remained beautiful, but the village’s aging population had trouble getting out to appreciate it. Granisle was becoming a retirement community but it had not been designed for retirees. As the community demographics changed, increasing numbers of residents began to have challenges getting around, using the village amenities and socializing.

 

In 2010, the Village Council decided to take action to improve the quality of life for all residents, passing an age-friendly resolution. The next step was the formation of an Age-friendly Committee, including Northern Health, members of the Granisle Senior’s Association, Lion’s Club, Red Hat Society, Curling Club, and Village Council. Emily Kaehn, Local Government Management Intern, explains the goals of the committee: “They were to serve as an age-friendly champion for the community. They would help develop a vision, gather momentum and support from the community, and encourage action.” 

“Cooperation is the secret – cooperation from everyone: clubs, organizations, council and residents” - Linda McGuire, Mayor of Granisle

The goals were large, but the community was up to the challenge and began planning immediately. They knew that engaging and involving all residents was the key to success. “Cooperation is the secret – cooperation from everyone:  clubs, organizations, council and residents,” enthused Mayor Linda McGuire. 

Enabling Accessibility

In 2011 Granisle successfully applied for an Enabling Accessibility grant (a Federal fund that supports capital costs of construction and renovations related to improving physical accessibility and safety for people with disabilities in Canadian communities and workplaces). This allowed them to update the Curling Club and the Village office with accessibility features such as lower counters, wider doorways, and chair lifts for stairwells.

With indoor gathering spaces accessible to all, the Village turned their attention to outdoor public spaces. They received a Towns of Tomorrow grant to create Granisle Memorial Park, which Kaehn describes as having “stunning lake views, park benches, picnic tables, a dog walking path, and beautiful gardens all connected by wheelchair accessible rubberized pathways.”  The rubberized pathways have been a particularly large draw for the park. Brenda Andersson, Village of Granisle Financial Officer, explains “The rubberized pathway was at first really novel – once people walked on it, people come specifically to walk on it.  It’s easy on the body, something seniors want, and it’s a really good area to push a stroller through. The park has become a central feature of the community.”

Heartened by the huge impact these changes made to community health, the Village decided to take their plans a step further and complement the age-friendly infrastructure with social programming and events. 

Social Connectedness

“It took some time, but thinking ‘age-friendly’ has become habit and expectation, rather than an afterthought.” - Emily Kaehn

A partnership with Northern Health and the Granisle Senior’s Association led to the creation of Healthy Luncheon events that include a well-balanced meal as well as a presentation from a community nurse. These luncheons bring out an impressive one third of the town’s population. Kaehn is proud of the many ways these events serve the population of Granisle: “The luncheons provide opportunities for social participation in leisure, social, cultural and spiritual activities with people of all ages and cultures. It ensures that older people are treated with respect and are included in civic life as well as encourages community support and health tailored to older peoples’ needs.” 

Strong community support, a clear vision, and commitment to inclusivity for people of all ages has guided the many changes to all facets of life in Granisle. For example, to ensure that all residents stay in the loop about both social events and important community notices such as road closures, the Village now uses bold, clear type on all printed materials and recently purchased a high-visibility electric noticeboard.  As well, they are working on upgrading the internet service within the community so that residents can be connected to families and friends inside and outside the community. To help residents get out and about in all seasons, the Village developed a Snow Removal Policy that targeted specific locations such as the snow mounds at the ends of driveways and all walking pathways in the parks and throughout the village.

These age-friendly changes caught the interest of people outside the community of Granisle as well. In 2013, the Province officially awarded The Village of Granisle an Age-friendly Community designation. Kaehn proudly explains, “It was an honour to receive such a designation, as it was a community effort to make the changes we have accomplished today. It took some time, but thinking ‘age-friendly’ has become habit and expectation, rather than an afterthought!”

In-Home Help for Seniors

In 2014, the Village was approached by the United Way, funded by the Province of BC, to be a pilot community for their new program, Better at Home. This program provides help to seniors with tasks such as minor house cleaning, picking up prescriptions and groceries, or even shoveling driveways. It also provides a social connection by having volunteers organize weekly/biweekly visits with seniors and taking them to healthy luncheons or events in the community. Better at Home Program Coordinator Lisa Rees explains, “Seniors still have a lot to contribute to their communities. They don’t want to leave our community, they go because they can no longer shovel the driveway, paint the outside of their house, weed the garden or mow the lawn, so that’s what we are here to help them with. Aging in place in their homes and communities is better for seniors.”

“As a community we are not just interested in our seniors, we are interested in our community as a whole and how we can create an environment that is healthy and inclusive for all members of the community.” - Brenda Andersson, Village of Granisle Financial Officer

The changes brought about by the age-friendly resolution have gone deeper than just alterations to infrastructure and social routines. The initiative has built a culture of optimism and enthusiasm among Granisle residents of all ages. Andersson explains, “Here in Granisle being an age-friendly community means we are inclusive, although a significant percenta

ge of our population is over 65. As a community we are not just interested in our seniors, we are interested in our community as a whole and how we can create an environment that is healthy and inclusive for all members of the community.” 

Today, thanks to innovative planning and multi-sectoral collaboration, Granisle is once again a thriving community. Becoming age-friendly has attracted visitors and given families a reason to stay - by helping people access the natural amenities and enjoy the quality of life the Village offers. Granisle is a vivid demonstration of how age-friendly policies improve health and wellness for community members of all ages.

 

Granisle's Age-friendly Resolution

“It is recognized that with an aging population, our communities will face both new opportunities and challenges in responding to older people’s needs and wishes, AND Whereas, the 2006 Census showed that 1/3 of the population of Granisle is over the age of 45; Therefore, be it resolved that the Village of Granisle will endeavor to become a more age-friendly community, AND Further, be it resolved that the Village of Granisle will strive to promote and implement age-friendly policies & practices in the community of Granisle.” 

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More Information

Emily Kaehn
Economic Development/Administrative Coordinator, Village of Granisle
Email: ekaehn@villageofgranisle.ca
Phone: (250) 697-2248