Since September I have had the great pleasure of working with two young women from Acadia’s Community Development program to envision Seymore Gordon Park as an age friendly park. The project, initiated by Mud Creek Rotary in cooperation with the Town of Wolfville engaged Acadia students in phase one of the initiative. Over the past few weeks Caroline and Caroline – the two Acadia students – met with small groups of residents in the apartment complex to the east of the park, residents of Wickwire Retirement Home, Wolfville Nursing Home, The Elms, and the Wolfville Children’s Centre, to discuss what would be appropriate for this park space.
“Quiet Park” (its informal name) is the land to the north and east of the former Eastern Kings Memorial Hospital. It is partly owned by the Town and maintained in its entirety by the Town. Town Staff are currently working with the EKM to arrange a long term lease for the park. Mud Creek Rotary has been working with “the Carolines” to identify appropriate elements for future development. Their work will be given to students of NSCC’s Kingstec Campus – Therapeutic Horticultural Program for a design studio project next winter. This is a terrific collaboration of students from two of our area education centres, Mud Creek Rotary, and the Town. As a Mud Creek Rotarian I am eager to see where this collaboration takes us, perhaps how it can be a model for other projects.
Age Friendly initiatives are those that consider the needs of all ages in design and programming, with a particular focus on the needs of those who are older – or at least those who find much of our current design of sidewalks, access to buildings and services, such a challenge that their participation in community is limited. Legislation and projects such as this are helping to change this, but it will not happen overnight.
As I listened to the discussions led by the Acadia Students with children from the Children’s Centre and residents of the nursing and retirement homes I was struck by the uncomfortable feeling that as a society – as a community – we still have a long way to go to be truly inclusive. While the future development of this park area will certainly go in the right direction, there is a long way to go.
Those in our community surrounded by extended families are indeed fortunate. For many of us that is not the reality. Many of the children we spoke to did not have grandparents close at hand. This was equally true for many of those in the nursing and retirement homes.
I have been dealing with a similar situation in my own family. Three years ago my independently living, car driving mother had a major stroke and in an instant her life changed. She now lives in a long term care home in London Ontario, I live in NS, her surviving sister in NB, my brother in Toronto, our children all over North America. Technology has allowed us to have connections (I do all her banking and pay her bills by internet) not available a decade or two ago. But it’s not the same as personal connections.
I look forward to a day when this park, in the heart of an area with many older adults, including many much older, frail adults, with the gift of the very young in their midst, helps us to be more personally connected across the full age spectrum of our community.