Social support, emotional connection and a sense of community are key factors needed for social, psychological and physical well-being of residents of Wynndel/East Shore Area A.
As the Age Friendly researchers spoke and listened to the 55+ age group, overwhelmingly they heard the gratitude and appreciate that everyone felt to be living here on the East Shore from Riondel to Wynndel. Many reasons were expressed for this gratitude but the main one was neighbours and community. Especially during COVID times, most everyone appreciated the friendly phone calls, grocery pick-ups, help with chores, meal delivery and more.
The phone and online survey which 129 residents of a certain age (55 plus) completed earlier this fall, had as the main goals of the first part of the Age Friendly project to connect with our older residents to find out how they are weathering the Covid crisis, discover the needs and possibilities to help people stay longer in their homes and in the communities, and also to try to measure how much social connection we have in our communities.
The 129 residents who were asked to respond to the survey questions represent approximately 10% of the population aged 55 plus of Area A. Results varied only slightly between the communities of Riondel, Kootenay Bay/Pilot Bay, Crawford Bay, Gray Creek, Boswell and Wynndel.
The Sense of Community Index which is a measurement tool developed by Community Science, was suggested by our mentors at Tamarack Institute as the most frequently used among researchers and practitioners globally. We used the 12 question index which asks respondents to rate statements about “community” as true or false. Four elements of a sense of community are described in this model: meeting needs, membership, influence, and shared emotional connection.
Many of our residents were not comfortable saying that statements about “community” were either true or false, black or white. Our feisty community members expressed that “community” is not tidy, questions are both true and false at times. “There are many variations among people who share the same values”. Perhaps our best shared value is “tolerance of the unusual ways of being, our unique idiosyncrasies”. “The questions are too suggestive, some people are givers and give back, others sit back”. The index may have been better with a sliding scale between True and False. Still the comments are interesting, and we plan to send in these results to see how we compare with other communities.
MEETING NEEDS: 80/100
Statements: I think my community is a good place for me to live, People in my community do not share the same values, and my neighbours and I want the same thing from community.
Comments include: (random selection not in any order of priority)
- I cherish the fresh air, clean water and being in a natural environment.
- I appreciate being able to be myself, alone or with others.
- We have a varied demographic with like minded folks many who are interesting, educated, creative people and tend to be self-sufficient.
- There are differences in values: some mow down trees, other cherish them, some are here to exploit resources, some to enjoy them, some are quite wealthy and others on a tight budget, some care about the appearance of their property, others do not, some allow dogs to chase wildlife.
- Lifestyle needs vary: we need to respect one another.
- Sometimes I don’t know who to call to help me look after the house.
- Values differ, and compatibility is a gift.
- We are politically different, but we love each other. People are friendly, open, welcoming.
- There is a sense of camaraderie and safety (strong in Boswell).
- The community halls create opportunities to meet and establish friendships.
- Access to the community centres is valued as they are the hub to create a sense of community.
- There are many new newcomers of late, and they may not want to know their neighbours- generally there is no sense of the values of people we don’t know.
- Part-time residents may not have the desire, nor the interest, in knowing and supporting local organizations, and often do not support tax increases.
- Some will have to move closer to medical services and family for support.
- It is very difficult when people lose their driver’s license and can not access public transportation.
Statements: I can recognize most of the people who live in my community. I feel at home in the community. Very few of my neighbours know me.
Comments include: (random selection not in any order of priority)
- I feel at home here all the time, I am where I want to be, until I can’t.
- It was friendly, but not so much anymore, I don’t get out much.
- I feel at home enough to welcome visitors.
- The network here is linked to groups you belong to, you have to get out of the house to know people.
- We wanted a long lasting and permanent home- this affects the attitude- who to get to know and what to learn, and how to get involved in organizations.
- Many properties have sold, there are new people, new driveways, trees lost, scary changes, too much too fast.
- New neighbours may not be a bad thing- this indicates growth.
- People know who I am, but they don’t really know me, truly know me. That is Ok, not all neighbours become friends. We look out for each other.
- We have many newer neighbours, but nothing to pull the community together.
- Many part-time residents come year after year, they join in when they are here.
- When a child went missing in the community, we all came out to help.
- Our geographic area is quite large and we are mostly rural, there are differing ages, we know our immediate neighbours and can call on each other.
Statements: I care what my neighbours think of my actions. I have no influence over what this community is like. If there is a problem in the community, people here can get it solved.
Comments: (random selection not in any order of priority)
- Generally I find people respectful, I can live my life my own way. There is warm and clear communication, I don’t care about opinions.
- I stay away from gossip, if I have an issue I call up the individual. I want to get along with my neighbours, and I find it upsetting when I can’t.
- We all have impact- every person contributes to the feel of the community.
- I like independence and I mow my lawn when I want. I care about the values, I like to feel I am valued.
- I am over 80, people don’t care if I influence, I am willing to let others take the lead, I carry on with my own life.
- There are issues like personal disregard, bullying behaviour, loose dogs, abandoned cars. How to voice these concerns?
- Agree to disagree is a good thing, it takes work to live in harmony with others.
- To create a vibrant community in the long run requires ongoing effort and creative, collaborative thinking.
- I can be a mentor to others- I have lived here, I know the environment. There are very capable people in our midst.
- Essential services are improving over time, now we have a nurse practitioner but no way to get to Trail.
- When there is a conflict, we can solve it, I have seen this over the years. It depends on the realm of the problem, there may be good intentions but up against budget cutbacks. We need the regional district to be on our side.
- Decisions over the bigger issues like logging and the ferry are made by people who don’t live here.
- More timely information is often needed when there is a problem.
- Locals are willing to voice concerns, but other issues need more expertise and sometimes we need impartial outside help.
- People don’t always know they can be part of the solution.
SHARED EMOTIONAL CONNECTION: 90/100
Statements: It is very important for me to live in this particular community, People do not get along in my community. I expect to live in this community for a long time.
- “New” is hard for elders generally- there comes a time to pass the torch.
- I feel safer here than anywhere else with Covid
- There has been improvement between East Shore communities- we work cooperatively.
- I am widowed and have a large property to maintain, I have no other choice of where to live.
- How long I can stay depends on my ability to look after the property. I am dependent on good help.
- We came here to retire and age in place, and now too old to move. We can stay as long as we can look after our house and as long as I am healthy and can drive.
- I can’t afford to move. I love it here but feel the isolation.
- I have thirty-eight years of relationships and sharing life events with friends and neighbours here.
- I now have a doctor that makes a point of calling me and connecting, I appreciate that. The new community nurse can come to see people at home, this is great.
- We have a lack of family close by.
- Rural life requires robust health and competence.
I enjoy this way of life-people, low crime, the scenery are all assets.
- It all depends on personal capability, health, support service and transportation to specialist, lab, x-ray- our residents are doing too much driving.
December 18, 2020
Submitted by Laverne Booth and Catherine White of the Age Friendly Area A Assessment project, “Moving Forward in Area A”.