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Community members to examine seniors’ needs in Whistler

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What: Mature Action Committee (MAC) Annual General Meeting

Where: Maurice Young Millennium Place

When: Thursday, March 25, 7 to 9:30 p.m.

Is Whistler a seniors-smart community?

That’s the question noted gerontologist and community planner Dr. Gerald Hodge will be asking at MAC’s annual general meeting on March 25.

Hodge said it is incumbent upon communities to ensure there are adequate support systems and facilities to allow seniors to flourish and live happy and healthy lives.

"I think on the one hand there’s just the social humanistic side of it," said Hodge from his Hornby Island home this week.

"These are citizens of a community. They have their connections to the community, their history with the community and I guess you can even say they have certain rights to continue to be citizens (of their community).

"If the supports are not there for them than you may be losing citizens."

It’s true that Whistler has been losing its older citizens over the years despite MAC’s best efforts.

MAC, which is made up of more than 90 community members over the age of 50, has been fighting to get seniors housing built in Whistler for the past decade, to no avail.

Hodge doesn’t want to downplay the social reasons for providing seniors housing but at the same time he points out that there is a financial upside to having a seniors-smart community.

"These same people represent a very substantial (financial) impact on the community to the extent that they’re retired," said Hodge who is a senior himself.

"The bulk of our income comes from pensions or it comes from investments and savings.

"All that income is coming into the community just as if you’re importing it."

Hodge was involved in a study of seniors on Hornby Island recently, which estimated that roughly $4 million each year flows into the community from just 200 to 300 seniors’ incomes.

"I would suspect from what I know of the Whistler seniors community or older adult community that their incomes are probably higher even than Hornby," he said.

Whistler’s population projections point to a growing seniors sector in the resort.

By the year 2001 there were 225 Whistler residents age 65 and over. Almost 500 residents were between 55 and 64 year old range.

Hodge said that in the next five to seven years the numbers of seniors in Whistler is going to nearly triple. He calls it a "seniors surge".

"The strongest demographic tendency among older people is what the gerontologists call ‘aging in place,’" said Hodge.

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