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Embracing Aging: Banff Leads the Way as an Age-Friendly Community

Banff's recent designation as an age-friendly community showcases its commitment to supporting seniors and ensuring they age with dignity and respect

We’re all getting older, but many of us put off contemplating how we will live in our old age.

The reality is that aging should not be anything to fear.

If we’re lucky, it happens to all of us! 

It should be a time to relax, delve further into our communities, and share all the wisdom we’ve gained through living.

Unfortunately, fears are warranted, considering how we’ve stigmatized aging in Western countries for the past hundred years.

Elder Abuse is Real

Senior abuse is one of the least talked about and rampant issues in our province. One in ten seniors in our province will go through this, and that’s just according to statistics. Incidents far more often go unreported.

As the Elder Advocates of Alberta put it, “In Alberta guardian and trustee abuse is rampant, and is facilitated by the system…in elder care facilities, seniors can be harmed with impunity because there is no viable, enforceable, protective legislation.”

Unsurprisingly, many fear being squirrelled away in a home with strained healthcare workers struggling to provide all the needed services.

No wonder we all wish to ‘age in place’ in the comfort of our homes.

Looking Forward in Banff

But in Banff, people are not shying away from the topic, and it’s paying off.

The town was just designated as an “age-friendly” community, following the work done over the past few years to help make it a place where people can grow old gracefully.

The town of Banff has many activities and supports for its older community members | Banff Seniors Society | Town of Banff

“This designation is a recognition that seniors matter, that seniors are important in our community, and we want them to stay,” said Sharon Phillips, chair of Banff’s Age-Friendly Committee.

The town has implemented an age-friendly action plan developed using the World Health Organization framework in just two years.

Eight areas were tested to find how Banff measures up, including housing, social participation, respect and social inclusion, outdoor spaces and buildings, transportation, civic involvement and employment opportunities, communication and information, and community support and health services.

Based on this feedback, the council approved a 2023-28 age-friendly action plan.

It also outlined gaps in services, programs, and infrastructure they will work to fill to make Banff even more inclusive.

The town also consulted with the Age-Friendly Committee to ensure that actions meet local needs.

“Banff does have a lot of great initiatives to support seniors, but through those consultations, we found out that there are a few more things we can be doing,” said Phillips.

Non-Medical Home Support

A new non-medical home support program is one of the first steps in moving forward.

Established community programs like The Snow Angels, which helps those in need clear their driveways and sidewalks in the winter, and Meals on Wheels, which helps people stay independent well into their golden years, will support elders.

“We know anecdotally that people are pleased with [Meals on Wheels] and that it’s helping a lot of people age in place and not have to move out and into a care facility,” said Linda Calabrese, manager of nutrition food services at Banff Mineral Springs Hospital.

While there still is a lot of space to grow, the town keeps their foot on the gas to ensure they get there.

“As a community, it is important to reflect on what it is to grow older and how we can all be supported so that no matter our age, we can continue to live with respect, dignity, and autonomy,” said Mayor Corrie DiManno.

Banff joins the growing list of Alberta communities recognized by the province for being age-friendly, including Lethbridge, Olds, Calgary, Edmonton, Strathcona County, and Cold Lake.

As the Elder Advocates of Alberta would point out, our province still needs to become a genuinely equitable place to grow old.

But it’s reassuring to know that many communities care and that work is happening to improve our situation.

Way to go, Banff!

Active senoirs couple in Banff
A happy life in Banff as a senior | Banff Viewpoints

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