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Collective Conversations: Ageing and the community we want

If there is something that connects us all, it’s age. We all hope to have a long life, and be able to enjoy it up to the end!

We also all want to be connected to our community, nurture a social safety net around us, like it used to be in the old times.

Connecting with older people, helping them to keep living in the neighbourhood we all love and acknowledging their experience, skills and wisdom, is a great way to strengthen that safety net.

The Vic Park Collective took the opportunity of Seniors’ Weeks to invite the community to talk about how being a more age-friendly suburb benefits the whole community.

Forty-five people attended our Collective Conversations at the Bowls Club on Monday, 12 November. It was thrilling to see some young faces in the audience, keen to know more about what it means to grow old in our community.

Senior urban designer Peter Ciemitis from Roberts Day showed how possible and necessary it is to design our urban spaces with older people in mind.

“It’s not only about designing out trip hazards”, said Peter. It’s designing better for people from 8 to 80 years old, considering major global trends such as climate change, technology, and demographic shifts. The baby boomers, for instance, are likely to downsize, choose public transport or walking, and keen to live in an “authentic community”.

Urban design should enable casual social contact, said Peter, with parks and squares as meeting places, and good house-to-street relationship, inviting people to be outside their homes where connection with others is possible.

Luke Garswood, Connect Victoria Park CEO, acknowledged that infrastructure and better planning are necessary to make Vic Park the best place to age in WA, but not sufficient. It is crucial to change our attitudes about ageing, he pointed out, and help shift community perceptions.

Luke presented the audience with a few challenges: be aware of ageism, rethink how we perceive ageing, put ourselves in the shoes of an older person, model how we would like to be treated – and hopefully younger generations will follow.

And he invited everyone to be part of Connect Victoria Park’s Village Hub project by joining as a member, volunteering or sponsoring it. The Village Hub is a member-driven initiative that helps people 55+ connect, share skills and knowledge, and build community.

Finally, long time Vic Park resident Tricia Young moved and inspired the audience as she recounted how it was to grow up in East Vic Park in a multicultural and multigenerational community, how she returned to the area to care for her elderly mother, and how today, as a senior herself, she keeps active, contributing to the community she wants to live in.

As Tricia reminded us, to acknowledge and connect with older people is to invest in the community we want for ourselves now and as we grow old.

The Vic Park Collective thanks the Bowls Club for the venue, Jo Hunter for projector equipment, and Connect Victoria Park for kindly catering this event with delicious curry & rice.

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