12 April, 2024

Seniors draft plan falls on deaf ears

Older people in Horsham deserve a louder voice on issues which affect their everyday lives, according to senior community representatives.

By Caitlin Menadue

June Liddy
June Liddy

Older people in Horsham deserve a louder voice on issues which affect their everyday lives, according to senior community representatives.

And while Horsham Rural City Council has drafted an Age Friendly Communities Plan for 2024 -2027 - released last week - it failed to attract input from some of the city's longest-established seniors groups.

Only 197 of nearly 6000 people in the 65-plus age-group responded to council's call between August 2023 and February this year with input into the draft plan.

A council spokesperson said: "In developing the plan we did quite a lot of targeted engagement."

However, of the 197 respondents, only 62 people were not from the Older Persons Advisory Committee, from people attending sessions organised by members of that committee, or were council staff.

The municipality has a total population of about 20,500, of whom 5746 are over 60 - or 28 per cent of the overall population.

This number has increased sharply since 2016, with 180 more residents between the ages of 60 and 69, 297 more between 70 and 84, and 43 more in over 85.

All statistics indicate an increasingly ageing population.

The report states: "This data indicates the importance of developing an age-friendly community with resources and facilities that improve access and livability for older people."

U3A leader June Liddy said that while publicity about the plan was limited, it was up to people to know what was happening and to have input where appropriate.

"And if they don't, then they get the government they deserve," she said.

"A display of council-related activities in Horsham Town Hall attracted a few hundred people - there should have been a thousand go through."

She said the small number of people who responded to the draft plan was disappointing.

U3A plans to request the organisation be added as a provider of lifelong learning.

Longtime Horsham resident and aged-persons committee member Shayne Keenan said he was disappointed there was not more council-led consultation.

"There were several meetings relating to the questionnaire with the HRCC employees and other groups," he said.

"Sadly, there was not one public meeting I am aware of. HRCC needs to ensure inclusiveness."

Nor were details of the three meetings made public so others could attend, Mr Keenan said.

He said since the committee's inception in 2018, councillors had held two briefing meetings with the committee of about 30 minutes each.

"That interaction averages out to around one minute per month over the six years," Mr Keenan said

He said seniors deserved more respect.

A council spokesperson said the second round of engagement was more general and provided an opportunity for anyone to have a say.

"The plan is about how we as an entire community can be more accessible and accommodating to older people and so it is a plan for the whole community," he said.

Comments on the draft plan will be accepted until April 24, on the council website.


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