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Whistler seniors gear up for future

Seniors lifestyle fair puts the 65+ set in touch with service providers



American author and columnist Doug Larson famously said "the aging process has you firmly in its grasp if you never get the urge to throw a snowball." It's an apt quote for the aging Whistlerite.

Though Whistler carries a reputation for being a summer and winter destination popular with the transient twenty-something set, 1,100 residents over the age of 55 call it home and the numbers are growing. Some have raised families here, others have been skiing Whistler and Blackcomb since bindings were made from leather. Now financially secure baby boomers are hanging up their weekend warrior titles and retiring in these hills full time.

While most Whistler seniors are active and healthy, specialized services are still necessary for the aging demographic, which is why the Resort Municipality of Whistler, Whistler's Mature Action Committee (MAC) and the Whistler Community Services Society (WCSS) have joined forces to help expand and connect what is available for seniors.

Last Thursday, WCSS' Seniors Needs Action Planner (SNAP) coordinator Melissa Deller watched over the first annual Seniors Lifestyle Fair at Spruce Grove. Featuring 21 brochure-laden tables manned by experts offering information on various seniors-specific services like estate planning and business succession advice, Coastal Health Authority's in-home services, and volunteer programs, the fair drew 98 attendees.

"We decided to pull this together so seniors in Whistler could have the opportunity to interact with the service providers in Whistler, and also to see what is available," said Deller. "There is so much opportunity for other people to participate in all aspects from mental health to nutrition, there are so many services in Whistler that are made for seniors and it's just about bringing everyone together to show what is available to the population."

The proportion of B.C.'s population aged 65 and over has increased dramatically, from 9.3 per cent in 1971 to 12.8 per cent in 1993 and will rise to 18.3 per cent by 2021. In Whistler, Squamish and Pemberton issues around housing are especially pressing for the aged, as many seniors prefer to remain independent, which often requires specialized care.

"Our goal is to keep people in their homes for as long as possible safely, and well looked after," said Francesca Cole, a homecare nurse with Vancouver Coastal Health Home Support Services in Whistler and Pemberton.

"We're going to get busier as the population is aging and while we're very lucky in this corridor - our seniors are very healthy - there are always going to be issues and it's nice to be dealing with them up front and getting that connection with them early so they can make their time more successful and stay in their homes."