Age Friendly Communities - Why They are Safe For Seniors
Age-friendly communities help their citizens age actively. Seniors have many opportunities to be volunteers or engage in employment in their community.
As a senior, you are likely to have come across the term “Age-Friendly” more than once. Chances are, it cropped up in most, if not all, the brochures or websites you pored over as you did research into where you would spend your retirement.
But where does the term “Age-Friendly” come from and what exactly does it mean?
A big push in the age-friendly movement goes back more than a decade with a major initiative by the World Health Organization (WHO), a specialized United Nations agency that’s responsible for international public health.
In 2006, the WHO started the global age-friendly cities project to gather data from a wide range of seniors, public authorities, and civic leaders and organizations that serve older members of society.
Surveys were conducted in 33 cities around the world to determine what areas of community life needed to be improved so that people continued to enjoy a high quality of life even as they aged and faced greater physical, mental, and socio-economic challenges.
In the words of the WHO, an age-friendly world “is a place that makes it easy for older people to stay connected to people that are important to them. And it helps people stay healthy and active even at the oldest ages and provides appropriate support to those who can no longer look after themselves.”
The WHO concluded that if cities were to claim to fit this description, they would have to measure up in eight areas:
- outdoor spaces and buildings;
- social participation;
- respect and social inclusion;
- civic participation and employment;
- communication and information; and
- community support and health services.
In 2007, the government of Canada did a similar survey with ten rural communities across eight provinces. They posted the results in a report entitled Age-Friendly Rural and Remote Communities: A Guide.
Age-friendly communities help their citizens age actively. Seniors have many opportunities to be volunteers or engage in employment in their community. Public spaces, both indoors and outdoors, are designed to be safe and usable for people of all ages. Housing is safe, affordable, and well designed for seniors. Public transportation is affordable and accessible. Health and support services are readily available. Information is easy to find and understand.
The Public Health Agency of Canada outlined five Pan-Canadian Age-Friendly Communities Milestones. They describe the major steps required for a community to become age friendly.
Firstly, an advisory committee including older adults must be established. Secondly, the municipal council must resolve to work towards becoming more age-friendly.
A goal without a plan will never come into fruition, so the next step is to create a robust and concrete plan to address the needs of seniors in the community.
To solidify the plan and make sure it is carried out, it should be made public. And as the plan is carried out, the results and outcomes must be recorded and made public as well.
In 2011, half a decade after the WHO’s initial work on age-friendly communities began, some 560 communities in Canada had begun to implement age-friendly initiatives.
The number has only increased from there as Canadian communities work with seniors to help them age actively.