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Seniors are family's 'glue,' Langley Township council told

Seniors are often the glue that keep families together. With those at the lower end of the age spectrum, they bind generations in residential communities.

That was the overriding theme at a public hearing held on Monday night for a bylaw amendment to remove age restrictions in the Jericho Sub-Neighbourhood Plan.

Leo Mitrunen had initially envisaged a development geared to seniors on 17 acres he owns in the 7700 block of 200 Street. However,   feedback he received from potential lenders, joint venture partners and others showed that the adults-only/seniors market is too restrictive.

Mitrunen is still interested in dedicating some housing to seniors and speakers at the hearing encouraged him to do so, with the proviso that the Safer Homes Standards and Universal Designs are implemented.

These contain 19 points that reduce hazards and help people to grow old while living independently in their homes.

They include bath and shower controls that are easier to reach, positioning light switches 42 inches from the floor and in more convenient locations, such as beside a toilet.

But the most important aspect for speakers was the benefit that comes from generations living together.

Twelve-year-old Kyro Plaviuk sang the praises of WindSong Cohousing, a residential community of 34 homes in Walnut Grove.

“It really benefits everyone,” said Kyro. “There is intergenerational social interaction. People get together and get to know each other.”

He especially likes the communal dining room where residents meet. There are many young children at WindSong “and all of them get along very nicely.”

Aldergrove resident Marilyn Fischer currently lives with her husband in a ground floor suite of a family member’s home. While they like being near their children and grandchildren, it’s time to move on, but not to a facility with age restrictions.

“We’re not interested in moving into a retirement community. It feels like a resort for old people,” Fischer told council.

Any aging in place co-housing (such as WindSong) should be part of mixed generational housing, she said.

“It’s more inclusive, more stimulating and less stigmatizing.”

Al Peterson of CARP, formerly the Canadian Association of Retired Persons, said that he is disappointed with the age restriction removal, but sees a compromise if the development is made to comply with Safer Homes Standards and Universal Designs.

In fact, Peterson said, all developments should be required to adopt those codes for a “significant” percentage of units.

“I can’t imagine our community without seniors,” said Lauren Plaviuk, Kyro’s mother.

Older people act as mentors, handing down their knowledge and sharing their skills, she added.

Michael Sanderson, Mitrunen’s agent, said that Mitrunen is committed to the codes.

Asked by Councillor Kim Richter what guarantee can be given that any units designated for seniors won’t be flipped for market housing, Sanderson replied that Mitrunen is strongly committed to housing for seniors.

Should council approve the community plan amendment to remove the age restrictions, a rezoning application would require a public hearing.

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