“Design for the young and you exclude the old. Design for the old and you include everyone.”
In 2006, the World Health Organization (WHO) launched the Age-Friendly Environments Project in order to, “address the environmental and social factors that contribute to active and healthy ageing”. Four Canadian communities, Halifax (Nova Scotia) Portage la Prairie (Manitoba), Saanich (British Columbia), and Sherbrooke (Quebec), along with communities from all continents, participated in focus group research for the project. The communities consulted with older adults and community leaders to identify existing physical and social barriers to active aging. The information collected from the international research project is contained in the WHO 2007 publication, Global Age-Friendly Cities: A Guide.
The project examines 8 topic areas that affect an older adult’s ability to remain healthy, independent and autonomous within their community. These topics were identified in previous research with older adults. (Including The AdvantAge Initiative.)
- Outdoor spaces and buildings
- Social participation
- Respect and social inclusion
- Civic participation and employment
- Communication and information
- Community support and health services
The Canadian government, in partnership with the provinces and territories, responded to the WHO Age-Friendly Environments initiative by forming the Pan-Canadian Age-Friendly Communities Network. By joining this network, communities receive ‘age-friendly community-related information’ to assist them in implementing the Age-Friendly Communities model. The Age-Friendly Communities in Canada: Community Implementation Guide assists interested communities to start, implement and evaluate their own age-friendly program.
In 2007, the ‘Federal, Provincial, Territorial Age-Friendly Rural and Remote Communities Initiative’ followed the same methods as the WHO project with a focus on Canadian communities with populations under 5,000. The information gathered from project is compiled in the Age-Friendly and Remote Communities: A Guide publication. This guide provides information for small rural communities in Canada to become more age-friendly.
Canada’s provinces and territories have created their own incentives and initiatives to create age-friendly communities. Below is an example of Canadian communities that have embraced the age-friendly environments initiative with impressive results:
- British Columbia, 17 communities have received ‘Age-friendly BC’ recognition.
- Manitoba, 86 communities are ‘Age-Friendly Manitoba Initiative’ members.
- Ontario, 29 communities are listed on the ‘Age-friendly Community Stories’ website.
- Nova Scotia, 25 communities have received the ‘Age-Friendly Communities Program Grant’.
With the projected increase of older adult populations, the Canadian Age-Friendly Communities Network is an important step in addressing the political and social changes necessary to create age-friendly environments that benefit people of all ages.
Join the Sheridan Elder Research Centre’s 10th anniversary event on Friday, September 6, with guest speaker Alexandre Kalache, MD, PhD. Dr. Kalache launched the WHO Active Ageing Policy Framework and the worldwide movement on Age-Friendly Cities during his tenure directing the Global Ageing Programme at WHO Headquarters (1995-2008).