a couple living in it to provide research
results. We’ve now relocated it to one
of the Brenda Strafford Foundation’s
Calgary’s Brenda Strafford Foundation
is at the forefront of the movement
to fully integrate seniors’ facilities
into the surrounding community. The
organization is currently partnering with
the West Campus Development Trust on
a new 240-unit seniors’ residence to open
James Robertson: The seniors’ housing
project that we’re doing on UCalgary’s
West Campus with the Brenda Strafford
Foundation is a block away from a
grocery store, a coffee shop, a pet store—
all those kinds of day-to-day amenities.
We hired an accessibility consultant to
make sure all of our streets and all of
our parks are 100 per cent accessible.
It doesn’t mean we’re only targeting
seniors. It means they’re a very valued
part of our community. We want to create
a place where they cannot only move to,
but where they can stay.
Brown: A community that can be used
by people with mobility challenges
can be used by everyone. It can be a
young mother with a stroller. It can be
an 80-year-old with a walker. It can be
me when I just don’t want to walk up
the stairs. The things that make a good
neighbourhood for seniors make a good
neighbourhood for everybody. We don’t
need to create a ghetto for seniors. We
just need to transform the way we think
about the whole city.
Conroy: The formal health system only
affects the health of the population to
about 10 to 25 per cent. Most of the other
things are called the social determinants
of health, and that is things like your
housing, your income level and so on.
Most importantly for seniors are the
community supports. So knowing what
those are, and knowing how to access
them, is a tremendous benefit to you.
Shankel: We’re waking up. We’re
recognizing that social isolation and
loneliness actually impact physical
health. They are as important as other
detrimental health factors—like obesity,
smoking, sedentary lifestyle. They
increase your risk of illness. They slow
your recovery from illness. They increase
your risk of depression. They increase
your risk of dementia.
We need to make sure that we
are not making decisions for
people, but with people
What’s our role?
The panel experts stressed the
importance of people of all ages taking
personal ownership of the issue.
Brown: Don’t just stick your head in
the sand and imagine that life will just
continue without certain challenges. The
worst thing is to have to make a choice
in a hurry, because that’s when your
options are reduced.
Conroy: I’m a big believer in advocacy,
and people pushing the system. That’s
really one of the only ways we’re going
to make meaningful change.
Robertson: Be proactive about it. If
not, people will make decisions for you
because they’ll have to.
Shankel: You can create your own path
and go your own way. You just need to
rally the resources around you.
Whitmarsh: I think the biggest takeaway
is continuing to help people navigate
their lives and to be engaged in their
decision-making. We need to make sure
that we are not making decisions for
people, but with people.|a
Panelists’ comments have been edited for
length and clarity.