Jessica Lang is a Health Promoter from Oxford Elgin St. Thomas Health Unit, with thirteen years of experience in public health practice. She has been involved with the multi-sector partnership and led the community engagement and communications components of the Creating Connections walkability project. Jessica was involved with the development of an Age Friendly Community Plan for St. Thomas and Elgin County that was completed in 2017. This plan identifies trails and paths as recreational priority for seniors. She is passionate about working collaboratively to create healthy and supportive environments to enable the aging population to remain socially involved, active and healthy. Jessica has a Bachelor of Health Sciences from Western University and is currently working on her Masters of Health Studies through distance education at Athabasca University.
Creating Connections: Improving Walkability for an Aging Population in St. Thomas, Ontario, Canada
Creating Connections is an innovative project funded by the Public Health Agency of Canada with a matched contribution from two local developers. This five year project aims to improve the built environment within the City of St. Thomas in order to support increased rates of physical activity, and to engage families, community members and municipal officials in order to improve walkability (the condition of the pedestrian environment) within the City. The objectives of this project are as follows:
- To increase rates of walking.
- To engage the community in a discussion about walkability, community design and connectivity.
- To assess the walkability of the whole City of St. Thomas.
- To make improvements to walkability in the demonstration (study) area.
- To study the effects of the neighbourhood improvements in relation to rates of walking.
An external consultant is currently conducting an evaluation to measure changes that have taken place in the built environment, and the subsequent impact these changes have had on rates of walking. By the end of 2018, most of the improvements to the demonstration area will be complete, but further changes will come with the implementation of a Cycling and Trails Master Plan and a Complete Streets Policy now in place. This project aligns with some needs identified in the Elgin St. Thomas Age Friendly Community Plan that includes “more trails and paths”, and the Age Friendly Environments theme. Preliminary results will be shared however final results from the post implementation survey will not be available until 2020.