Age-Friendly Communities

Canada's senior population is growing. This makes it more important than ever to support the health and well-being of older Canadians. This way, seniors can lead healthy and active lives and stay involved in their communities. Making communities "age-friendly" is believed to be one of the best ways to do this.

What 'age-friendly community' means

In an age-friendly community, the policies, services and structures related to the physical and social environment are designed to help seniors "age actively." In other words, the community is set up to help seniors live safely, enjoy good health and stay involved.

For example, in an age-friendly community:

  • sidewalks are well lit and kept in good shape;
  • buildings have automatic door openers and elevators; and
  • seniors take part in all sorts of community activities, such as visiting museums or libraries, taking courses or volunteering for charities or civic duties.

An age-friendly community:

  • recognizes that seniors have a wide range of skills and abilities;
  • understands and meets the age-related needs of seniors;
  • respects the decisions and lifestyle choices of seniors;
  • protects those seniors who are vulnerable;
  • recognizes that seniors have a lot to offer their community; and
  • recognizes how important it is to include seniors in all areas of community life.

What an age-friendly community looks like

In an age-friendly community:

  • outdoor areas and public buildings are pleasant, safe and accessibleFootnote *;
  • housing is affordable, safe and well designed for seniors;
  • roads and walkways are accessibleFootnote * and kept in good shape;
  • public transportation is affordable and accessibleFootnote *;
  • neighbourhoods are safe;
  • relationships are respectful;
  • health and community support services are available;
  • opportunities for seniors to be socially active exist;
  • seniors can take part in volunteer, political and employment positions; and
  • information is easy to find and easy to understand.

History of the Age-Friendly Communities Initiative

In 2006, the World Health Organization (WHO) developed the Global Age-Friendly Cities Project. This project brought together cities from around the world that were interested in supporting healthy aging by becoming more age-friendly. These cities gathered information from seniors, senior-care providers and other groups and individuals with an interest in age-friendly communities. This information helped to identify eight key domains of community life in which communities can become more age-friendly. These domains are:

  • outdoor spaces and buildings;
  • transportation;
  • housing;
  • social participation;
  • respect and social inclusion;
  • civic participation and employment;
  • communication and information; and
  • community support and health services.

Thirty-three cities took part in this project, including four Canadian cities: Saanich (BC), Portage la Prairie (MB), Sherbrooke (QC), and Halifax (NS). The document Global Age-friendly Cities: A Guide (PDF Document) was published to share the reports of what makes a city age-friendly.

In 2007, the Federal, Provincial, Territorial Age-Friendly Rural and Remote Communities Initiative used the same method as the WHO Global Age-Friendly Cities Project but focused on Canadian communities with populations under 5,000. In total, ten communities across eight provinces participated. These communities were:

  • Alert Bay, BC
  • Lumby, BC
  • High Prairie, AB
  • Turtleford, SK
  • Gimli, MB
  • Bonnechere, ON
  • Port Hope Simpson, NL
  • Clarenville, NL
  • Alberton, PEI
  • Guysborough, NS

As a result of this initiative, in 2007 the Federal, Provincial and Territorial Ministers Responsible for Seniors endorsed the report Age-Friendly Rural and Remote Communities: A Guide reflecting Canadian views and circumstances.

Provincial and territorial initiatives

To date, ten provinces and one territory are promoting age-friendly community initiatives in Canada. Visit the Web sites of these provinces to find out what is being done:

Find more information on cities recognized by WHO

How Canadian communities can become more age-friendly

Becoming an age-friendly community is an ongoing process. To help communities with this process, the Public Health Agency of Canada in collaboration with key partners developed the Pan-Canadian Age-Friendly Communities Milestones (Milestones). These milestones describe the steps a community needs to follow to successfully apply the age-friendly Communities model in Canada. They recognize that communities have different needs and available resources to take action in the eight domains of community life. By adopting a "milestones approach" that focuses on the process, communities can successfully become more age-friendly.

These are the Pan-Canadian Age-Friendly Communities Milestones:

  • Establish an advisory committee that includes the active engagement of older adults.
  • Secure a local municipal council resolution to actively support, promote and work towards becoming age-friendly.
  • Establish a robust and concrete plan of action that responds to the needs identified by older adults in the community.
  • Demonstrate commitment to action by publicly posting the action plan.
  • Commit to measuring activities, reviewing action plan outcomes and reporting on them publicly.

How Canadian communities are officially recognized as becoming age-friendly

Where provincial/territorial recognition programs exist, communities that have demonstrated that they have met at least the first three age-friendly communities milestones can be recognized by their province or territory as officially on the road to becoming age-friendly.

Provinces or territories may seek additional recognition for their communities from the Public Health Agency of Canada and the World Health Organization.

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