Guest Blog: Get outside and connect with your community

Providing information and opportunities for residents to connect with each other can create active and healthy relationships between people and public spaces.

The Province of BC’s Guide for Healthy Communities describes a socially connected community as one where everyone feels like they belong, where people know their neighbours and feel motivated to get involved, build relationships, and contribute to its success.

According to the Victoria Foundation’s 2015 Vital Signs Annual Report, over 60% of residents in the Capital Region actively participate in their community of interest and feel they know their neighbours well enough to ask for assistance. In addition to this, 66% of residents feel they have the opportunity to make a difference in their community or city.

Earlier this spring, the CRD launched the People Power Program in partnership with the Victoria Foundation and Traffic Safety Commission.

The goal of this two-year collective impact initiative is to increase social connections and provide opportunities for residents to engage in active and healthy activities. There are more than a dozen exciting projects which are a part of People Power; here are two that are focused on community connections.

Connecting Older Adults Map

Social integration and participation in society are frequently seen as indicators of productive and healthy aging. It is also widely accepted that social support networks have a strong effect on personal health. Transportation is also a determinant of health for older adults because of the role it plays in independence and how it shapes access to resources and programs.

With current trends such as encouraging older adults to live longer at home or in the community, a highly mobile society and anticipated population growth of older adults over the next twenty five years, the issue of social isolation takes on new importance in a diverse landscape such as the Capital Region.

With this in mind the CRD recently launched an online mapping resource for older adults and their caregivers, highlighting services, facilities and places for social connection, and the public transit routes which serve them.  Standardized icons denote places for recreation, lifelong learning, volunteering, support groups and social centres across all 13 municipalities and three electoral areas.

Behind the public resource map also lies a tool designed for municipal planners and service providers. The tool enables decision makers to visualize population data from Statistics Canada in tandem with these places to inform land use, transportation and service decisions.

By supporting social networks and high-quality accessible transit services we can support older adults to maintain their independence and social connections, while also improving road safety. Check out the Connecting Older Adults Map to support loved ones in finding the places they want to go.

Living Streets Pilot Project

Sustainable lifestyles and active transportation opportunities make our diverse ‘community of communities’ one of the world’s best places to live, work, play and visit. The Greater Victoria Placemaking Network (GVPN) is a dedicated group of residents committed to inspiring people, neighbourhoods and communities to create vibrant public spaces through different projects, initiatives and events.

The GVPN recently launched the Living Streets Pilot Project as a way to inspire events which ‘bring community right to the doorstep’ and build support for active travel. The concept behind Living Streets is to temporarily close a street to vehicle traffic and repurpose it – walk, bike, dance, paint or play – whatever brings it to life!

The Placemaking Network is currently reaching out to organizations, businesses and community associations with an offer to support and mentor the launch of local Living Streets events in the Capital Region. Their recently-released Capital Region Living Streets Guide explains the concept and steps involved in planning and hosting a Living Street Event. As a part of the project, the Placemaking Network is also offering a number of micro-grants to help support new events to come to fruition in 2016.

Cities around the world are transforming the built environment to make cycling, walking and rolling easier – for a few hours or a few days.

But these concepts are not just for big cities and sophisticated organizations – they can also consist of a team of a few neighbours planning an event on their local street. The Living Streets project is an opportunity to view roads and streets differently and promote cycling, walking and rolling among residents young and old.

Janette Sadik-Khan, former transportation commissioner of New York City, says ‘if we view streets as places to move cars rather than places to move people, then we create cities that are undesirable.’ Living Streets helps to focus on people and the connections that can be made when a street is closed to traffic.

Lindsay Taylor is the Active Transportation and Healthy Communities Program Assistant with the Capital Regional District.