Canberra wants your opinion

The ACT goverment is calling on its older residents to tell it exactly what they think about an ‘age-friendly’ Canberra.

By Yasmin Noone

Older residents of the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) are being called upon to tell their government exactly what they think of Canberra and suggest new ways to make their city more age-friendly.

The ACT government has created a new online survey, Canberra: Towards an Age-friendly City, in a bid to gauge community opinion about how age-friendly the city actually is, to determine what the city is lacking and the measures it should adopt in order to better meet the needs of older Canberrans.

The information collected from the survey by the Australian National University’s (ANU) Centre for Mental Health Research will be used to inform future age-related government policies and actions, as it strives to meet the “age-friendly city” requirements set out by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Director of ANU’s Centre for Mental Health Research, Dr Kaarin Anstey, said the survey will hopefully identify what older people believe to be the biggest age-related issues that need to be addressed.

“The survey will give the community the opportunity to have their say about what they think about Canberra,” said Professor Anstey.

“It will provide consumers and the public [as a whole], with the chance to rate the quality of their city.

“Unless you participate in the survey, the government won’t know [what your opinion is about what should happen in Canberra]. So this survey provides a great chance for everyone to have heir say.”

Dr Anstey recommended that ACT-based aged and community care staff should encourage the older people they work with to get involved in the survey.

“The more people that fill in the survey, the better the picture we will get…If only a certain type of people fill it in, it will give us a biased point of view.”

Canberra is one of three Australian cities and the only Australian capital city now part of the WHO Age-Friendly Cities network.

The network serves as a mechanism to link cities and ensure that the label “Age-friendly city” reflects a common global understanding. It also aims to provide technical support and training; link cities to WHO and each other; facilitate the exchange of information and best practices; and, ensure that interventions taken to improve the lives of older people are appropriate, sustainable and cost-effective.

Senior policy officer for the ACT Office of Ageing, Gerry McKeon, explained that network membership entails a “public commitment to ongoing improvement, assessment and reassessment and [age-friendly city] action plans. These action plans have to include consultation from seniors themselves, hence this survey”.

According to the WHO, an age-friendly city is an area “…where older people are respected, valued and supported to actively participate in, and contribute to, their community”.

It is also the kind of city that facilitates a good quality of life for its residents as they age, enabling them to stay physically, mentally and socially active. This includes the provision of support services that are accessible and relevant to people’s actual needs.

“When I look at the various age-friendly initiatives around the country, I think that Canberra [and Australia as a whole] is doing quite well,” said Mr McKeon.

“There’s various things that we are doing, here in Canberra, to make the city more age-friendly like making public buildings more accessible and offering concessions for seniors to encourage community participation. Locally, we also run a senior government grant program to foster projects which support social inclusion.”

In December 2009, the ACT Government launched the ACT Strategic Plan for Positive Ageing 2010-2014: Towards an Age-Friendly City. The survey, which closes on Friday 5 August, will also measure whether or not the aims of this strategic plan are being met.

The information collected will also be presented at the ACT Older Person’s Assembly in September this year. The assembly provides a forum for older people to speak up about the key issues that affect their lives.

ACT residents aged 60 years and over are invited to participate in the survey.

Click here to access the survey.  

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