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Local government CBSS initiative: City of Surrey - Age Friendly Strategy for Seniors

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Innovative local government CBSS initiatives and partnerships: Local governments are key players in developing and delivering community-based seniors services (CBSS) to support older residents to age in place. A strength of local governments is their ability to conduct research, advocate for assistance from other levels of government, and provide resources such as space, staff, material resources (e.g., access to technology), and funding. Municipal services are also often a major funder of CBSS.

Some municipalities provide services directly to seniors through municipal community center programming, while others provide long-term grants to not-for-profit senior serving agencies. Some opportunities to create alignment between local government and CBSS organizations, as identified by these groups, include using planning tables effectively to determine common aims, sorting out which grants go to which organizations, and having point people in both groups to facilitate collaboration across agencies.

To highlight this valuable work being done, Healthy Aging CORE is featuring local government CBSS initiatives in the Featured Community Programs area.

Initiative, Municipality: Age Friendly Strategy for Seniors, City of Surrey

Summary: The City of Surrey's Age Friendly Strategy for Seniors is a city-wide framework for working together to ensure seniors are supported and can remain actively engaged and safe in the community. The Strategy provides a clear path forward for ensuring Surrey's seniors are active and fully engaged by focusing on four key outcomes: Safety, Health and Wellness, Transportation and Mobility, Home, and Buildings and Outdoor Spaces.

Description: The Surrey Age Friendly Strategy for Seniors is a guiding framework that provides the key strategies and desired outcomes for developing Surrey as an Age Friendly City. The Strategy builds upon many planning documents that together incorporate an integrated approach to addressing the needs of seniors throughout the city. These include the City's Official Community Plan, which is a statement of objectives and policies that guide City planning decisions, and the Parks, Recreation and Culture 10-Year Plan, a blueprint for determining their facility and service decisions until 2027. As part of the Strategy, the City of Surrey works with many different community agencies, organizations, and volunteers to offer programs and services that benefit seniors.

How and why did this initiative get started?

In 2008, a City lead Task Force was initiated, as one of the results of what is now known as the Public Safety Strategy, with a focus on awareness and prevention of Elder Abuse and Neglect. The Task Force was comprised of representatives from the RCMP, City Council, Fraser Health, and other key stakeholders who work with seniors. By 2012, the task force had been officially designated as the Seniors Advisory and Accessibility Committee, a Committee of Council chaired by an elected council member. It is also at this time that the City of Surrey received its recognition as an Age Friendly Community. Although the main focus of the Committee was education and awareness of elder abuse and neglect, the opportunities expanded and collaborations with various stakeholders continued to increase in all efforts to leverage and offer programs and services that support healthy active aging.

In 2013, a consultation process was held which included a series of focus groups with key stakeholder groups including City of Surrey staff, senior residents, community-based sector including settlement organizations, focus groups such as the Surrey Seniors Planning Table (funded by the United Way), and the Seniors Advisory and Accessibility Committee. This consultation process sought input on the Strategy’s outcomes and how they could be achieved. Four strategic areas of focus, i.e., programs and services, engagement with seniors, collaboration with partners, and communication and promotion, were identified as ways to achieve the Strategy’s four outcomes, i.e., Safety, Health and Wellness, Transportation and Mobility, Home, and Buildings and Outdoor Spaces. It is following this consultation process, and with the consideration of key features from the World Health Organization’s work on Global Age Friendly Cities, that the Age Friendly Strategy’s Framework was developed. The Age Friendly Strategy for Seniors was eventually adopted and approved by the Mayor and Council (in 2014) and the City of Surrey has since been officially recognized as an Age Friendly City. The City of Surrey hosted the inaugural UWLM Provincial Healthy Aging Conference in 2017.

Initiative Impact: The development of the Age Friendly for Seniors Strategy has provided a formal approach to supporting an Age Friendly City in Surrey. “The City recognized the value of the Strategy’s implementation and allocated specific staff resources to support the work”, says Sahra-Lea Tosdevine-Tataryn, Project Manager for the Age Friendly Strategy for Seniors.

As a result of the Age Friendly Strategy, the City of Surrey has adopted a paired municipal and community-based sector approach which has led to a strong ability to share and leverage resources that help to enhance the lives of seniors in Surrey and train volunteers and staff teams. This approach also allows for enhanced opportunities for an integrated support system for individuals or families who may need additional programs or services. In recognition of the importance of the municipal and community-based sector, Surrey officially supported the declaration that was a result of the inaugural Healthy Aging Conference held in Surrey in 2017.

Some of the initiatives that have contributed to the Strategy’s goals and outcomes have included, (but not restricted to):

  • The Seniors Connector resource and referral service, which is available in community/recreation/seniors’ centers to assist seniors or family members access information about any service or support that may be required.
  • Ongoing Focus on Seniors forums, which host a variety of presenters and resources including Awareness of Elder Abuse and Neglect, Housing, Transportation, Caregivers and Dementia Friendly.  Working with their community-based settlement service organizations, Surrey has had the privilege of being able to offer Forums in other languages including Arabic, Punjabi, Mandarin and Korean.    
  • The Share and Care Program and Mobile Community ID clinic initiative.
  • Seniors Centre Without Walls (described below).
  • The Surrey Age Friendly for Seniors Working Group, which is a network of community-based, academia, or faith-based organizations with local and provincial government representation.
  • Surrey Intercultural Seniors Social Inclusion Partnership Network projects, which are funded by Employment and Social Development Canada under the New Horizons for Seniors Program. This network is a collective impact initiative including six organizations; Progressive Intercultural Community Services (PICS), City of Surrey, Seniors Come Share Society, SOURCES BC, Semiahmoo House Society, and Fraser Region Aboriginal Friendship Centre Association (FRAFCA). Each organization is leading various projects. The City of Surrey is leading two: Age Friendly Pedestrian Routes Project and Connecting Generations.

Strengths and Adapting to Challenges: “The implementation and success of the Age Friendly Strategy requires the entire community to work together in building and sustaining an age friendly city for seniors”, says Sahra-Lea. There are many strengths of community-based and municipal partnerships and collaborations:

  • Grant applications are more robust and can be more successful for both municipal and community-based organizations.
  • Facilities and spaces can be shared through partnerships to provide the best possible support to the community. For example, the Seniors Come Share Society has worked directly out of one of Surrey’s recreation centres as an off-site outreach office.
  • Cross promotion of both groups and their programs can be shared through social media, networks, newsletters, and events. This increases community awareness for both groups, supports increased learning about each other’s programs and services, and can open up opportunities for exploring new and innovative initiatives that may not have been considered prior. Participants may learn of other programs and choose to experience a fitness class at the local recreation centre, book club through the library, or volunteer with a community-based organization.
  • Sharing of knowledge with each other can help enhance community advocacy.

How has the initiative and its associated programs adapted during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Municipal and community-based partnership initiatives in Surrey have persisted and adapted through the COVID-19 pandemic to continue supporting older adults in the community. According to Sahra-Lea, “the pre-existing relationships between the municipal and community-based services has been a huge asset as we all respond to the pandemic and learn new ways of providing programs and services in the safest and most effective way.” For example, the Surrey Age Friendly for Seniors Working Group (as described above) which continues to meet, virtually, has provided the opportunity for members to learn how each of the organizations have been operating through the pandemic. It also provides an opportunity to connect resources and COVID response initiatives and increase overall awareness of what is available.

The Focus on Seniors Forums and other in-person activities have been modified to comply with public health protocols and new Focus on Seniors Webinars have been offered in efforts to keep connected to seniors who are able to access computers within their homes. 

Responses to the pandemic’s challenges have also resulted in some new initiatives being developed. In response to COVID-19, a Seniors Engagement Task Force was developed in Surrey, with the primary goal of engaging seniors and individuals with disabilities in their home so that they can remain connected to programs and services and to undertake initiatives that will support those most vulnerable during this unprecedented time.

Another successful and relevant response to COVID has been the Seniors Centre Without Walls program. With the closing of the recreation facilities in March 2020 due to the pandemic, it was the partnership between the City and Seniors Come Share Society (SCSS) that enabled a variety of programs such as heritage, fitness, art classes, and theatre to be hosted through the SCSS-led Seniors Centre Without Walls program.

For more information about the City of Surrey and the Age Friendly Strategy for Seniors, click here.

  • Location

    Surrey, BC

  • Organization


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