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.

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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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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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Biggest Threat Facing Middle-Aged Men is Loneliness

This month’s Boston Globe magazine features an excellent article about the risk for loneliness among middle-aged men. In particular, it discusses the tendency for middle-aged men to let their friendships lapse as they age. It is well worth the read.

If you cannot load the page, you can find a PDF version here.

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Brain Health and Dementia: Free Cantonese Health Forum, April 8

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SAC Begins New Term

The Seniors Advisory Committee is beginning its new term this month. We are very happy to have five new members join us: Monica Camporese, Clemencia Gómez, Ashok Puri, Elaine Wass, and Honghao Xu.

We hope to continue work on several important goals this term, including our pursuit of the “Global Age-Friendly City” designation from the World Health Organization; our social isolation & loneliness project; improvements to street safety & infrastructure; accessible public transit; and our checklist of essential features for accessible seniors’ housing.

If there are any issues you feel our committee should address, or if you would like to attend a meeting, please contact us.

For new members, the following documents may be useful:

  • Procedure Bylaw, which regulates the procedures of Council and its committees and other bodies
  • Guidelines for Civic Agencies, which provides general guidance on day-to-day operation of civic agencies
  • Code of Conduct Policy, which sets minimum expectations for the behaviour of Council officials, staff, and advisory body members in carrying out their functions
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Review of City’s Snow and Ice Removal Procedures

We are pleased that Council has passed a motion today asking staff to provide a report on the City’s handling of snow and ice removal during December. The Park Board has commissioned a similar report. As street safety and accessibility are key priorities for our committee, we look forward to reading these reports and providing feedback.

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Snow and Ice Removal

Please remember that sidewalks can become very slippery during the winter. Please help prevent accidents by keeping the sidewalks around your home/business clear of ice and snow.

While the City is responsible for clearing major thoroughfares, including bus routes, bridges, and bike lanes, residents and businesses are responsible for clearing snow and ice from the full width of sidewalks that surround their residence or business by 10:00am on the morning following a snowfall. Failure to do so could result in a fine.

Snow and ice on the sidewalk can be a barrier for many people, particularly seniors and people with disabilities. A single portion of a sidewalk that is not cleared can negate the clearing efforts of the rest of the residents on the whole block.

Help those unable to shovel

The City encourages you to lend a hand to those who are unable to shovel their own sidewalks.

Adopt the sidewalk of a senior neighbour or person with a mobility issue, and keep it clear of snow and ice all winter long.

To report problems on City property, call 3-1-1, or 604-873-7000.

Happy holidays from the Seniors Advisory Committee!

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Character Home Zoning Review

2919_east_29th_avenueThe City is conducting an Character Home Zoning Review to look at options for the retention of heritage and character homes in single-family (RS) zoning districts.

Geographic and zoning options are being explored that could result in changes to regulations for both pre-1940 character homes and new home development in older single-family neighbourhoods.

Share your thoughts at an open house on December 5th or 6th, or complete an online survey. For information:

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