Bench project brings better access to downtown

Creation of more rest stops is giving Ponoka’s aging residents an opportunity to be more active.

Creation of more rest stops is giving Ponoka’s aging residents an opportunity to be more active.

The bench project was announced by Margo Kusiek, FCSS board chair, earlier this year at the Rejuvenate conference at the Ponoka Seniors Drop In Centre.

“Originally a senior Ponoka resident, Ruby MacDonald, stated, for seniors walking was difficult because there was no place to sit down,” said FCSS program co-ordinator Emma Curran.

When FCSS conducted a survey focused on the needs of community, it was discovered Ponoka needed more senior friendly options. “That being said, this program stemmed from that,” said Curran.

Wes Amendt, director of community services, along with the Town of Ponoka, approached FCSS with room in their budget to work with them on the project.

Already the town was working on municipal revitalization and beautification projects. “It just seemed to fit,” said Amendt.

The project is being kept to the downtown core for now but Curran isn’t ruling out expansion in the future. Four new locations for benches have already been suggested to her.

“Previously we were acknowledged as a senior-friendly community,” said economic development officer Sarah Olson.

However, with initiatives such as the bench project becoming more common terminology has changed, labelling Ponoka an age-friendly community.

Olson found initiatives geared toward seniors actually benefitted a number of groups, from young families, mothers, toddlers just learning to walk who tire easily, and the disabled. “We’re trying to make downtown more pedestrian-friendly, more senior-friendly,” said Curran.

“It allows people to stay downtown and linger downtown a little bit longer,” said Olson.

The town redid several of the older downtown benches and is in the process of installing 10 new ones; made of recycled plastics.

As of Aug. 6 new benches had been installed outside of Shoppers Drug Mart, the Ponoka Jubilee Library, Bruce’s Tru Value Hardware and the Ponoka Physiotherapy and Acupuncture Clinic. The remaining benches will be installed once their cement pads are ready.

To complement the bench project, FCSS is starting a walking program for all ages this fall. “It’s going to be a weekly meet in the evening where people can get together and walk,” said Curran.

The free program will also run during the winter at an inside location.

A walking group also makes downtown and less busy residential areas safer for seniors with limited mobility or who are afraid of falling.

For more information on the walking program contact the Ponoka FCSS office at 403-783-4462.