The age-friendly initiative of Cochrane has entered its final phase of public engagement that includes workshops and focus group discussions.

Sought are the views of a diverse group of Cochrane residents, from the young to elderly. This study examines transportation, housing, parks and recreation, health services, and civic and social environments with the intent of creating a community that is inclusive, accessible, and supportive of all residents throughout their lifespan.

Prior to these focus groups and workshops, 350 people provided a wealth of input in a survey. It was available in hard copy or online.

"We thought it was really important to actually talk to the community, so we have engaged in creating some focus groups that people can come out and have some conversations about what they want to see," explains FCSS manager Kim Krawec.

There are six workshop sessions, each lasting two to three hours, under the topics of built, social, and health, that aim to foster collaborative exploration of each topic. 

Two focus groups sessions, spanning two hours each, will engage specific groups such as youth and service providers. These sessions are designed to capture diverse perspectives and facilitate in-depth discussions on potential ideas and future directions.

A series of age-friendly user experience interviews, lasting 45 minutes to one hour each, will delve into the lived experiences of older adults in Cochrane across various domains of action. The interviewee selection process prioritizes diversity, ensuring representation from economically challenged individuals, those facing accessibility issues, racialized individuals, Indigenous community members, and other relevant groups.

So far, they've held two in person and one virtual workshop with just 45 participating and have three more scheduled for next week that people are welcome to join. There's one in the afternoon of Mar. 26 and one in the evening on both Mar. 26 and 27.

There's been a wide range of topics discussed, says facilitator Sharon Moore, including parks, walkways, hospice, housing, healthcare. doctors availability, mobility, and transportation.

"It's been very diverse, and lots of great ideas have been shared."

The first youth-oriented session was scheduled this week but had to be cancelled due to poor weather. 

"We really are trying to reach our younger populations who are youth families with children, early retirees, caregivers, because this actually is going to impact all of us," says Krawec. "We are all aging, and we want to design a community that everybody can actively participate in and be involved in, and that affects everybody right across the entire lifespan."

After a final focus group session with service providers in April, work will begin on finalizing the report. The aim is to release the report during Senior Week, which is being held June 3 to 9. Work kicked off last year during Seniors Week.

Those interested in learning more can visit Let's Talk Cochrane here or phone FCSS at 403-851-2250.