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The Future is Age-Friendly

A future-ready community takes into account the needs of all age groups from young to old; it’s indeed an age-friendly community.

 

This has become particularly important with the aging of the baby-boom generation. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates the global population of adults aged 60 and over will double between 2006 and 2050, from 11 per cent of the world’s population to 22 per cent. According to the World Health Organization “an age-friendly community encourages active aging by optimizing opportunities for health, participation and security in order to enhance quality of life as people age.”

A trio of WSP planning professionals, Nadia De Santi, MCIP, RPP,  Davin Shillong, MCIP, RPP and Emily Sangster, MCIP, RPP, are currently working to help municipalities and organizations across Canada view community planning through an age-friendly lens. Using a wealth of information and experience amassed from working with a number of diverse clients, Nadia and Emily recently published an article, Age-friendly Planning Tools, in the Ontario Planning Journal, detailing important considerations to plan communities for every stage of life. The duo is also joined by Davin in delivering a series of upcoming presentations to encourage this forward-thinking planning approach.

  • Ontario Ministry of Municipal Affairs, Planning Workshop: May 11, 2017 in Kingston, Ontario (Nadia De Santi)
  • Canadian Institute of Planners (CIP), Presentation: June 17-20, 2017 in Calgary, Alberta (Emily Sangster and Davin Shillong)
  • Ontario East Municipal Conference (OEMC), Presentation: September 13, 2017 in Kingston, Ontario (Nadia De Santi)

They are delivering the message that age-friendly planning tools do not come in a one-size fits all format. For example:

  • Rural and remote communities will have far different needs than in urban areas, not only because they tend to have higher numbers of seniors given increased urbanization which sees many young adults relocating to cities, but because of their vast geographic areas. An age friendly planning approach considers that rural seniors must often travel long distances to access health care services and pursues innovative and healthy solutions to bring health care to their citizenry.
  • Seniors have diverse housing needs, including smaller and more accessible units, or affordable support services such as cleaning and snow removal to help them remain in their own homes. An age-friendly planning approach takes steps to identify and address these needs to ensure seniors can remain in their communities as they age.
  • Communication strategies used by municipalities and service providers must be accessible to an aging population. An age-friendly planning approach to communication includes online, print, and in-person elements that use clear language, fonts, and graphics, in multiple languages where appropriate. Advertisements on posters and in place of worship bulletins can be particularly effective. Regular reminders before events are also important.

These considerations make it increasingly important for municipalities and organizations to engage their citizenry to develop a framework that generates solutions that works for their unique needs.

WSP works with clients to create age-friendly action plans that are as diverse as the communities themselves but each address in their own way the eight dimensions of age-friendly communities depicted in the following visual.

The World Health Organization's eight dimensions of age-friendly communities (WHO, 2007)

To learn more about how age-friendly planning will ensure our communities are indeed future-friendly check out Nadia and Emily’s article and, if possible, attend one of their thought-provoking presentations.