Fighting Loneliness with a Community of Seniors

Local journalist Linda Givetash spoke with SAC member Eddy Elmer and chair Colleen McGuinness about social isolation and loneliness in Vancouver and the Committee’s upcoming report on these issues:

Fighting loneliness with a community of seniorsThe Tyee, November 14, 2017

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New App for Finding Public Washrooms in Vancouver

The availability of public washrooms is a topic of great interest to the Committee, so we are delighted that Crohn’s and Colitis Canada have created a handy new app that allows people to find a public washroom wherever they are in in the city! Give it a try and see how it works!

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Enhanced Snow Response Plan

We are pleased that both the City and the Park Board have unveiled an enhanced snow removal response plan, informed by lessons from last year’s unexpected snow storm.

Changes include expanded snow removal coverage (e.g., on pedestrian pathways), enhanced response capabilities (e.g., expanded snow removal fleet), a priority clearing schedule, and increased salt capacity.

The City offers several tips to prepare for winter weather, including preparing your snow gear early, knowing your snow removal obligations, and getting your winter tires on. The City also reminds people about its Snow Angel program, which provides assistance for seniors who are unable to clear the snow in front of their homes.

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Public Hearing: Rezoning of 1920 SW Marine Drive (Casa Mia)

At the October 17, 2017 Regular Council meeting, Council referred this rezoning application to the November 14 public hearing. The hearing will be held in Council chambers on the third floor of City Hall, 453 West 12th Avenue. The hearing will start at 6pm.

The Seniors’ Advisory Committee has reviewed this application and will be voicing support at the public hearing.

Anyone who considers themselves affected by the proposed by-law amendments may speak at the Public Hearing. Please register individually beginning at 8:30 am on November 3, 2017 until 5 pm on the day of the Public Hearing by emailing or by calling 604-829-4238. You may also register in person at the door between 5:30 pm and 6 pm on the day of the Public Hearing. You may submit your comments by email to, or by mail to: City of Vancouver, City Clerk’s Office, 453 West 12th Avenue, Third Floor, Vancouver, BC, V5Y 1V4. All submitted comments will be distributed to Council and posted on the City’s website. Please visit for important details.

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Requesting Accessible Public Washrooms at New SkyTrain Stations

Last year, the Committee passed a motion calling for the consideration of accessible public toilets—a key element of an age-friendly city—in all planning projects. City Council subsequently approved an amended version of this motion.

One important location for accessible public washrooms is transit stations. As TransLink is currently planning the new SkyTrain Broadway extension, we feel it is critical that all new stations include public washrooms. We plan to ask Council to consider this issue, and have written a draft letter which we hope to present in the near future.

Update: We are pleased that the Persons with Disabilities Advisory Committee has passed a motion recommending that washrooms be considered for all SkyTrain stations. We are also pleased that the Children, Youth and Families Advisory Committee will be discussing our letter at its November 9 meeting.

Media coverage

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Update on Social Isolation & Loneliness Project

The Committee is currently revising and finalizing its list of recommendations to help reduce social isolation and loneliness among older adults in Vancouver. We will provide more details in a few weeks.

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BC Seniors’ Advocate Report on Residential Care

SAC member Gudrun Langolf appeared on CBC’s BC Almanac today to discuss findings from the Seniors’ Advocate survey on residential care in BC.

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Letter of Support for Casa Mia Redevelopment

Below is the text of our letter of support for the revised rezoning application for 1920 SW Marine Drive (Casa Mia):

At its June 16 meeting, the Seniors’ Advisory Committee heard from the Applicant regarding changes to the above-noted rezoning application. We commend the Applicant for providing a thorough presentation and for being proactive in reaching out to us for feedback.

The Committee had previously expressed non-support for the first version of this application. While we applauded the potential addition of new housing and services for seniors in this underserved area, we were concerned that the proposed project was of an institutional nature and did not conform to the best practices of the widely regarded Green House Project model of housing and care.

We were pleased to learn that the revised project will adopt many of the Green House model practices, especially the arrangement of beds in a small home design of 12-14 single rooms with private ensuite bathrooms, as well as dining, lounge, and activity areas for each neighbourhood. These small clusters will help foster a sense of community and belonging for residents, help to reduce agitation and confusion, and improve participation in activities of daily living.

We were also pleased that 58 of 90 beds will now be publicly funded and managed under contract with Vancouver Coastal Health, providing more affordable housing options for seniors who wish to age-in-place in this neighbourhood. We are also pleased by the seamless integration of the heritage mansion with all three levels of the new building and design features that allow residents to freely and safely move around the entire facility without fear of getting lost. Other laudable features are the inclusion of some double rooms for couples; easy access to plentiful green spaces and pleasant views; enhancement of trees and hedging to increase privacy; and provisions to manage traffic flow in and out of the facility.

The Committee would like to provide four recommendations for this project:

  1. In keeping with the small home design of the project, we urge that the use of long,
    institutional-type corridors be kept to a minimum.
  2. In keeping with the Green House Project best practices for care, we recommend that “total care workers” be used to the extent possible or, at the very least, that workers be trained and given the autonomy to do a range of tasks, rather than just one or two.
  3. The developer should ensure that there are, indeed, a sufficient number of accessible parking spaces designated for persons with disabilities. Two may be insufficient.
  4. Better transit options should be explored for this area. The nearest bus stop is at Angus Drive, which is quite a distance from the facility, and the area in general is not well-lit and lacks sidewalks. For staff and visitors who walk, take transit, or bike, this can pose a challenge, especially at night and during inclement weather. To address this concern, the Applicant has stated that car-sharing will be encouraged and has proposed a shuttle service from the bus stop to Casa Mia, but we are unsure whether this will be adequate. Perhaps the installation of a bus stop closer to the facility is an option that can be explored with the City and TransLink.

We commend the Applicant for their hard work on this project and for taking the time to hear and address our concerns. We happily support this revised rezoning application and look forward to the construction of this much-needed facility.

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Community Dialogue on Health Research, June 27

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Strawberry Festival, June 24

Come visit our table at the annual Strawberry Festival!

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Statement from Mayor Roberson on rejection of 105 Keefer rezoning application

In response to strong community opposition, Council has just voted to reject the rezoning application for 105 Keefer Street in Chinatown. The Mayor has issued the following statement:

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SAC Opinion on 105 Keefer Rezoning Application

The following comments have been sent to Council in a letter. Our Chair will also be speaking to the matter at today’s Public Hearing at 6pm.

The Seniors’ Advisory Committee is a civic agency appointed by Vancouver City Council to provide advice on matters presently under consideration which affect older adults and their families. The re-zoning application for 105 Keefer Street is of particular interest to the Committee given the serious implications it may have for seniors’ housing affordability and livability in Chinatown.

We have heard and considered a wide variety of opinions on this application, and discussed it at length during our June 17, 2016 meeting. While the Committee recognizes the need to increase the availability of different types of housing throughout the city, we remain concerned about the impact that this proposed development will have on housing affordability and overall livability for seniors in Chinatown.

Our primary concerns are the following:

  1. Of the 25 social housing units proposed for the second floor, we feel that there are an insufficient number of units designated for low-income seniors. This is of great concern given the high proportion of seniors in Chinatown living at or below the poverty line and who are at risk of homelessness.
  2. Dedicated cultural spaces are critical for fostering social connectedness—a priority concern for our Committee and the Social Planning Department. While we welcome the dedicated seniors’ cultural space proposed for the ground floor of this development, we are unsure whether it will be affordable for groups that would most benefit from its use.
  3. This proposed development represents the beginning of gentrification in Chinatown. While gentrification has its benefits, it also comes with costs. In particular, we are concerned that developments like this will increasingly displace affordable, culturally-appropriate amenities for low-income, monolingual seniors, such as Chinese grocery stores and pharmacies.
  4. Although commenting on architectural design is not generally within the Committee’s purview, we echo the concern that the current proposal remains out of scale with neighboring buildings and landmarks—both in style and size—and is not adequately sensitive to the historic nature of Chinatown. This threatens the unique character of this nationally-designated historic site and diminishes the sense of place and belonging that is so important for the well-being of seniors.

As many may recall, Council approved a motion on October 8, 2013 that the City work toward seeking World Health Organization designation as a “Global Age-Friendly City.” Among the requirements for seeking this designation, Vancouver must ensure that there is adequate and affordable housing for low-income seniors; that services and amenities are culturally appropriate; and that seniors feel socially connected and integrated with their communities.

In its current form, this proposed development—and the future developments it will likely inspire—appears to be inconsistent with the characteristics of an age-friendly city. We therefore cannot support the proposal at this time and we recommend that it undergo further revision to address the concerns we have described.

More generally, we recommend that the City consider steps to mitigate the potentially negative impact of gentrification in Chinatown, such as commercial-nonprofit partnerships to create culturally-appropriate, multi-use facilities in the area, and preserving the character of Chinatown.

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Public Hearing on Rezoning Application for 105 Keefer St. and 544 Columbia St., May 23

A public hearing on the rezoning application for 105 Keefer and 544 Columbia Streets in Chinatown will be held on May 23, 6pm, Vancouver City Hall. This application may have implications for seniors’ housing affordability in the area and the overall look and feel of Chinatown going forward. For information about the project and to learn how to speak at the hearing, please see

The Committee is drafting a letter to Council outlining our views on this application.

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SAC Position on West 10th Avenue Corridor (Health Precinct) Design

On May 17, we will be addressing Council and explaining our position on the proposed changes for the West 10th Avenue Corridor (The Health Precinct). Below is the text of a letter we approved and sent to Council in advance of the meeting, where the recommended design guidelines will be considered.

Dear Mayor and Council,

Re: 10th Avenue Health Precinct Improvements

The Seniors’ Advisory Committee is a civic agency appointed by Vancouver City Council to advise Council and staff on enhancing access and inclusion for seniors to fully participate in City services and civic life. The following represents the views of the City of Vancouver Seniors’ Advisory Committee.

The Committee acknowledges that substantial changes have been made to this project in response to our many concerns. Staff have made an effort to consider and incorporate suggestions offered at several workshops attended by representatives of SAC and the Persons with Disabilities Advisory Committee that address issues on an interim basis. We are especially pleased to see that the needs of patients have become the highest priority.

We strongly suggest that staff continue to examine and incorporate possibilities that will meet the needs of all people accessing the “Medical Precinct” as it grows in size and usage—specifically, examining what is being done in other cities around the world, such as charitable valet parking; accessible shuttles from parking, bus stops, and drop-off sites; and other such examples.

Although much progress has been made on the plans for this project, we understand that the design work is not yet complete. We therefore feel it would be prudent to wait for the final plan before we offer a fulsome endorsement.

In the meantime, we hope that staff will consider some remaining issues that we feel require more attention:

  1. First and foremost is the concern we have for adequate and accessible parking for patients and caregivers who must visit the medical services for treatment. The parking must be nearby on level, or there should be serious re-working of how patients are assisted to and from transportation, including assistance to the office within the building being accessed.
  2. There remain concerns about existing and proposed trees in several areas of the precinct, including those in front of the EyeCare Centre. Staff have obviously considered this issue, but we would like further assurance that trees and other plantings will not in any way impede access to sidewalks.
  3. Consideration should be given to the impact of wet autumn leaves on streets and sidewalks, especially during winter weather. We suggest that staff choose trees and shrubs that do not create excess foliage. At the very least, we suggest that there be a rigorous maintenance program to regularly clear leaves and other debris.
  4. Extra attention should be paid to street lighting in order to facilitate way-finding and improve safety for all users.
  5. Although it is important to have adequate signage and way-finding for pedestrians, motorists, and cyclists, it is equally important to avoid visual clutter in the form of excessive signage, traffic lights, and road/sidewalk markings. In the presence of visual clutter, users may become confused and frustrated, and could even disregard important traffic warnings. On this issue, we encourage staff to remember the dictum that “less is more.”
  6. The Seniors’ Advisory Committee wishes to be part of on-going consultations, as this is a key part of the future plans for the West 10th Avenue Health Precinct.

We trust that stuff will address these concerns and we look forward to reviewing and comments further on the final plan.

Yours truly,

Colleen McGuinness,
Chair, Seniors’ Advisory Committee

In the media: 10th Avenue bike plan still needs work say patient advocacy groupsMetro Vancouver

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Revised Rezoning Application for 1920 SW Marine Drive – Casa Mia

The City of Vancouver has received a revised application to rezone 1920 Southwest Marine Drive from RS-1 (One-Family Dwelling) District to CD-1 (Comprehensive Development) District to allow development of a 90-bed Class B Seniors’ Community Care Facility.

The new proposal includes heritage preservation and reuse of the existing Casa Mia mansion, which is a Class A Heritage listed building, and development of a two-storey addition with basement and underground parking. A total of 90 beds for seniors complex care accommodation are proposed, including 58 publicly-funded beds and 32 private-pay beds.

In response to our previous concerns, the revised proposal appears to incorporate elements from the Green House Project Model of care. We look forward to discussing this in more detail with the applicant at our June 12 meeting, which is open to the public.

A community open house will be held from 5:00-8:00 pm on Tuesday, June 6, 2017 at Dr. R. E. McKechnie Elementary School, 7455 Maple Street, with the applicant team and City staff available to answer questions.

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How to Combat the Vicious Cycle of Loneliness

This month, The Atlantic features a great interview with loneliness researcher John Cacioppo. In the interview, he reminds us of the need to distinguish social isolation from loneliness, and how programs designed to alleviate isolation do not necessarily alleviate loneliness. A good read, with particular relevance to those working to combat both problems among older adults.

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Seniors’ Multicultural Festival

South Granville Seniors’ Centre is hosting its annual Multicultural Festival on May 4th. Come out and enjoy a fun afternoon of great food and entertainment.

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LGBTQ+ Seniors’ Social, April 21

Are you an older adult 55+ who identifies as LGBTQ/2S? Attend Qmunity’s Spring Fling celebration, April 21, at Haro Park Centre.

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Provincial All-Candidates’ Debate on Seniors’ Issues

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New Report from National Seniors Council on Social Isolation

The National Seniors Council of Canada has just released a new report outlining the current scientific literature about social isolation among specific groups of seniors. This is a comprehensive review and we encourage everyone interested in seniors’ issues to have a look. This review has helped inform our own review of best practices for social isolation and loneliness among older adults.

From the executive summary:

“Canada’s population is aging rapidly as a growing proportion of baby boomers transition into their senior years. In this context, the issue of social isolation – which has profound impacts on the health and well-being of seniors from all walks of life – has come to occupy an increasingly important place in discussions on seniors and aging in Canada. It is estimated that up to 16% of seniors experience social isolation (Statistics Canada, 2010). Who’s at Risk and What Can Be Done About It builds on earlier work undertaken by the National Seniors Council (NSC) on the issue of the social isolation of seniors. Specifically, the current review looks at what the literature says about how different groups of vulnerable seniors are affected by social isolation and identifies promising interventions to tackle social isolation and reconnect seniors to their communities.

“Nine groups of seniors are examined: Aboriginal seniors, seniors who are caregivers, immigrant seniors, LGBT seniors, seniors living alone, seniors living in remote or rural areas, low-income seniors and those living in poverty, seniors with mental health issues (including Alzheimer’s and other dementias), and seniors with health challenges or disabilities. The review begins with an examination of the literature on each group before exploring the literature on promising interventions, most of which focuses on seniors as a whole. It concludes with four main findings.”

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