Nackawic's five-year effort to earn recognition for the town and surrounding communities as an inviting place for seniors to live officially came to fruition Wednesday, Sept. 29.
New Brunswick Social Development Minister Bruce Fitch visited the town to celebrate Nackawic's official designation as an age-friendly community and unveil the award and banner acknowledging the accomplishment.
Over a noon-hour lunch, with special guests, at the Nackawic Curling Club, Fitch praised community leaders and age-friendly steering committee members for meeting requirements to become one of 13 New Brunswick communities to achieve the special status.
"It shows the community of Nackawic really cares about its seniors," said Fitch.
The minister noted the spirit of cooperation required to reach such a goal.
"It's very commendable to see everyone working together," he said.
Coun. Gail Farnsworth and Julie Stone co-chaired the steering committee established in 2017 to pursue the Age-Friendly designation.
Stone described her co-chair as the driving force behind the age-friendly committee and countless other groups to make the town and neighbouring communities an inclusive and supportive place to live.
Stone said Farnsworth strives tirelessly to better the community through her roles on council, the wellness committee and several other organizations.
Farnsworth returned the favour as she introduced Stone, who offered appreciation to a long list of people and organizations.
"Julie Stone was, in all honesty, our spark,"
Stone said the age-friendly steering committee, which includes members from Nackawic, Millville, Southampton, Temperance Vale, Pokiok and Dumfries, worked towards this moment since establishing the committee in 2017.
"This has been five years in the making," Stone said, prior to the lunch and award-unveiling.
She said the process began with a survey of residents of Nackawic and the five surrounding communities.
With information garnered from the survey, the volunteers developed an action plan to present to council for approval.
The age-friendly designation doesn't come easy. The action plan must demonstrate to the province that it meets the criteria laid out by the World Health Organization, United Nations, and the Canadian government.
Farnsworth said Nackawic's efforts gained recognition from the UN, Canada and New Brunswick.
She added the age-friendly designation doesn't end with the official recognition. She said the Nackawic region must continue to meet standards during ongoing reviews every five years.
Fitch said the province designed the age-friendly program to encourage communities to take action in support of seniors. He also noted the committee's efforts would continue to address the needs of seniors.
As part of its age-friendly action plan, Nackawic and surrounding communities divided its focus in several directions by encouraging the development of age-friendly housing, activities, health and other services and meeting accessibility requirements.
While not planned, the Wednesday luncheon coincided with a significant step on the housing front.
Stone noted this weekend, people will begin moving into four new units of the Atlantic Garden Homes, a multi-unit senior housing development overlooking Nackawic's famous big axe, expanding waterfront and the beautiful St. John River.
Stone said the development would include at least 12 units, possibly more.
Before helping Fitch unveil the award and roll out the banner during the lunch-hour event, Mayor Ian Kitchen said the designation is one the town proudly shares with surrounding communities.
"This just confirms Nackawic is a great place to live," he said.
The mayor praised the efforts of the committee and many volunteers who ensure the region remains age-friendly.
"There's always something for seniors to do here," he said.
Kitchen explained the volunteers' focus reaches beyond seniors and helps the greater Nackawic area be inviting for everyone.
"I moved here when I was six," he said. "They were volunteering then."
Stone said the Nackawic-area volunteers, the business community, town staff and elected council members worked in unison to meet the detailed standards required to earn the age-friendly designation. She said local businesses played an essential role in completing the action plan, noting the local stores worked with them to make their businesses accessible.
In recent months, Stone said, Nackawic welcomed several retired couples who moved from Ontario, Alberta and B.C. to take advantage of what the communities offered.
She added the town doesn't only appeal to seniors. She said young families see the greater Nackawic area as a great place to raise children.
With the expanding waterfront, plenty of activities, scenic beauty and friendly neighbours, she said, Nackawic is a wonderful town for anyone to live or visit.
Jim Dumville, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, River Valley Sun