Silver Linings: The future of aging in Whistler

Is one of the great tricks to an ongoing good life pressing on with an interest that makes one fascinating to be around and fully engaged with what is going on?

“Let not repetition make a subject grow old,” says an elderly sage. Change the subject with regularity, maintaining periods of silence between topics. Accuracy, peccadillos and humour are a good sauce for attention, via the pen or vocalized. Observers or listeners, greats, grands, even the dog or cat, young and old may not find you a bore.

In the midst of our Sea to Sky corridor, we are fortunate to have many who produce work, art, spread wisdom and knowledge by simply living their lives in a way that is every bit as good or better than in their youth. These people are all over Whistler.

The rarefied mountain air, glistening clean water, enthusiasm for our lifestyle may be responsible. Is the spirit of our foremothers and fathers an influence on how we press on? History says this is so.

Let me introduce a few lines presented when the identity of persons over 55 was contested as “seniors” as opposed to “elders” at a recent meeting in Whistler.

The fact is the World Health Organization has done recent research thus, according to average health quality and life expectancy, the new criterion of human age is as follows:

  • 0 to 17 years old: underage
  • 18 to 65 years old: youth or young people
  • 66 to 79 years old: middle aged
  • 80 to 99 years old: elderly or senior
  • 100 + years old: long-lived elderly

What relief to have one’s mind set of mid-40s be justified by this auspicious, respected group!

According to the World Health Organization, globally, the number of people aged 65 or older is projected to grow from an estimated 534 million in 2010 to 1.5 billion by 2050.

The growing senior population of Whistler albeit from an initial small base, amounts to a growth of 68 per cent as is noted in the 2017 Whistler Mayors Task Force on Housing. 

This statistic intensifies the need for environments to be made age friendly, which should be a goal for our community, most especially in the official community plan, a charge that is fast approaching. The plan should indicate a willingness and integrity to strive to be inclusive and account for the needs of the entire population of Whistler.

This refers to the original stakeholders: residents who want to age in place in this community, who helped build and populate it, taught our children, trained them in sports, nursed them, cooked for them. They may not have a financial portfolio or tidy pension — only the house they built in the ‘70s or perhaps not. They may be indigenous.

A plan for purpose built rentals for aging Whistlerites is crucial to supporting our aging residents. Our council is moving towards this, however 20 units are not enough for our maturing locals. As we all march towards elderly status as referred to in the chart above, we need to integrate civic and institutional uses of civic land for supportive housing; purpose built or dedicated areas to provide and maintain a good quality of life for all.

Squamish and Pemberton appear to have addressed this with acknowledgement and inclusion that encompasses all of the population. Notably they are fast developing a resort- base economy yet have focused their goals on a cross section of visitors and residents. Kindly refer to these communities official community plan’s that are current and recognize this demographic.

How can we minimize uncertainty for what has become a diverse community? Would the answer be to insert strategic directions for goals in the Official Community Plan? Would that include assisting the facilitation of low-cost housing options not entirely dependent on developers’ discretion under the umbrella of employee housing? Would indicating goals ensure commitment to all of the welcome and valued citizens of Whistler?

Janice Lloyd is a director with the Mature Action Community Society.

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