In 2016, 20 per cent of New Brunswickers were considered older adults. There were 150,000 residents in the province 65 years of age or older, and this number is projected to jump to 31 per cent by 2038. The YMCA of Greater Saint John is working to provide opportunities for New Brunswick’s aging demographic by developing a plan to meet the needs of the community.
“We are working to develop future leaders and empower young people to stay in our region, while also supporting the overall vitality of older adults,” explained Shilo Boucher, President and CEO at the YMCA of Greater Saint John. “Many people may not connect youth and older adults, but at the Y we see the two working together as an opportunity to enrich lives and bridge gaps in our community.”
Two pilot programs were launched at the Saint John Regional Y in 2018; the Touchstones Discussion Project and an Intergenerational program that brought young leaders and seniors together to explore creativity and learn from one another.
“It was amazing to connect with the young people,” said 80-year-old Joyce Rogers, who participated in the Intergenerational program. “The youth were so attentive and wanted to hear stories from us seniors, but I learned so much from them as well. We painted, played music, danced and made meals together. It was a wonderful experience.”
Throughout 2018 the Y has been working to connect with older adults by hosting focus groups and information sessions with various stakeholders. Based on research that has been conducted, a plan is being put into action to serve the population in a more effective and meaningful way.
Cindy Levesque is a Wellness Consultant with the Government of New Brunswick. She said that by acting on opportunities and engaging stakeholders and partners in the process, Saint John can become an age friendly community that supports the physical and mental well-being of not only the seniors, but of the entire community, with the Y acting as a catalyst.
“An age friendly community provides opportunities for intergenerational knowledge exchange, a decrease in social isolation and families experiencing less worries because they are supported and know that their older relatives have the services they need,” Levesque said. “The community will benefit from volunteerism of older adults, and the local economy will benefit from potential business from the older adult consumers.”
The Y is now working to build relationships and partnerships, while pursuing the important work that needs to be done to build a healthy and strong community.
“It is so exciting to see that our seniors are being heard and there is a plan in place to address these needs and increase opportunities,” Levesque said.