Two of the biggest influences shaping the 21st century and global trends of our day are urbanization and an aging population. As Canadian baby boomers’ reach retirement age, our cities are also growing. It is estimated that within the upcoming 3 decades, baby boomers (born from 1946 - 1964) will double in numbers from approximately 4.2 million to more than 9 million Canadians over age 65.
As our population ages, it is becoming increasingly important to have programs and services in place that enable older adults to live safe, meaningful active lives within their communities. With that goal in mind, the provinces of Canada are establishing strategies to support the Age-friendly community.
What is an Age-friendly community?
The general definition - an Age-friendly community benefits people of all ages from young to old. As it applies to seniors - in an Age-friendly community older adults are able to live safely, enjoy good health and stay involved. Making communities Age-friendly is one of he most effective ways of dealing with the aging population
Key features of an Age-friendly community:
- Public buildings, parks and outdoor areas are clean, pleasant, secure and accessible
- Public transportation is affordable and easy to access
- Housing is affordable, secure, well designed, well built and appropriately located
- Social, cultural, spiritual and leisure opportunities are available to people of all ages and cultures
- Older adults are treated fairly, respectfully and included in civic life
- Opportunities for involvement in politics, volunteering as well as employment are available to older adults
- Age-friendly information and communications are available
- Health and community support are tailored to meet the present and future needs of older adults.
Ottawa: an Age-friendly community in Ontario
Ottawa, Canada’s capital city is committed to the world initiative of becoming recognized as ‘Age-friendly’. The goal: to implement the Municipal Older Adults Plan and transform Ottawa into a city that is more responsive to the needs of older adults.
Ottawa is one of Canada’s top five cities in which to retire and widely known for its beautiful parks and outdoor spaces. People in Ottawa are generally kind and respectful and the wide array of venues offering cultural and social opportunities lend to the city’s age friendliness. There is a broad range of housing options for older adults, and many Ottawa seniors are active volunteers that enjoy contributing to their community. ‘Age-friendly Ottawa’, with the help of senior volunteers is presently undertaking projects to support the plan.
Other Age-friendly communities in Ontario include: Niagara, Hamilton, Windsor, Cambridge, Mississauga, London, Thunder Bay, Waterloo, and each year more communities in Ontario, in Canada and around the world, are forming action plans to outline their strategy for becoming Age-friendly. To see an overview check the World Health Organization website - Global Age-friendly cities: A Guide.
Why become Age-friendly
Older adults continue to contribute to the community in a number of ways. In the area of volunteerism, seniors age 65 and up give more volunteer hours on average each year than other age groups. Many baby boomers are caregivers to parents while supporting dependent children or putting adult children through school. Today’s seniors may be grandparents who contribute to the care of grandkids, and a greater percentage of seniors today than in previous generations are still in the workforce. The bottom line: there are costs as well as benefits to making communities Age-friendly. As we look at the global picture, it is to the advantage of society as a whole to invest in the active and healthy aging of people that make up and define ‘community’.
Written by Alice Lucette
Image by CC BY-SA of Flickr