New West council candidates team up on seniors platform

Two New Westminster council candidates have released a shared platform to help seniors.

Current Councillor Patrick Johnstone and candidate Nadine Nakagawa released the platform Monday. It addresses public spaces and amenities, social networks and housing issues. Proposals include a public-seating network to help seniors who may find it difficult to walk long distances, reviewing light timings for pedestrian crossings, and making the new community centre and Canada Games Pool more senior-friendly.

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The pair said they decided to work together after they recently discovered they shared similar ideas on seniors’ issues. They released the platform Monday in light of Century House’s 60th anniversary celebrated last week.

The platform leans heavily on current council’s track record on seniors issues, noting the city’s “Dementia Friendly City” designation by Alzheimer Society of B.C., and the Age-Friendly Community Strategy released last year.

Johnstone said seniors’ issues cover a broad range of topics – including transportation, housing and infrastructure – and the platform ties them together.

“We don’t often talk about how seniors are often the first to be displaced with renovictions or demovictions, and they’re often on fixed incomes and they don’t have an ability to adapt what they do for housing,” he told the Record.

The platform promises to continue lobbying the provincial government for changes to Residential Tenancy Act to stop renovictions, and ensure the city’s tenant relocation policies are enforced and those affected are able to access all current resources. The platform also commits to working with community organizations, Metro Vancouver Housing, and senior levels of government to ensure new supportive and affordable housing projects meet seniors’ needs.

And though Century House has long been the cornerstone of the community for seniors in New West, the city could use more places for seniors to gather, according to the platform.

“As our community is growing in size, I think that we need to find opportunities to have more than one hub for seniors,” Johnstone said.

The platform promise to explore different areas – including the Sapperton Pensioners Hall, the Anvil Centre and community schools – to create a network of neighbourhood hubs for seniors and other residents to socialize.

Improving the walkability of New West for seniors and those with mobility issues is one area Nakagawa hopes to address. In her time sitting on the city’s committee on walking, cycling and transit use, she said she heard ways the city can improve.

“New Westminster already prioritizes walking and cycling and active transportation, but we have to make sure that, while it may be walkable for people who don’t have mobility limitations … things like sidewalks and crosswalks and light timing do work for everyone, specifically seniors and people with mobility limitations, so that the city still feels accessible to them as they age,” she told the Record.

Allowing for more laneway and carriage homes is another thing she’s heard when she’s been out door-knocking in the community.

“It’s a way for seniors to stay in this community, and also sometimes help their families who are struggling with house affordability issues,” she said.

“(It addresses) things like social isolation for seniors. If you’re living in close proximity to your family, then that’s a really great support system for people as they age.”

Nakagawa said she will be releasing position papers on other issues in the coming weeks.

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