ARCHIVED: Section III: Making Your Community Age-Friendly: Age-Friendly Rural and Remote Communities: A Guide – Planning for action

 

This guide has provided a summary of the considered thoughts, ideas and suggestions about what constitutes an age-friendly community gleaned from discussions held across Canada with older Canadians, caregivers who support seniors and service providers. It is intended to foster dialogue and action that supports and enables older people to “age actively”—that is, to live in security, to enjoy good health and to continue to participate fully in society.

The guide has reported on discussions of eight significant themes that are important to healthy and active aging. The focus group discussions brought into focus a number of broad and specific age-friendly features that community planners, agencies and others can consider as they review and develop services and supports to seniors. A number of barriers to age-friendliness were also identified in the focus group discussions—again, these are intended to provide communities across Canada with food for thought as they work to ensure that their policies, services and structures take into consideration the needs and desires of seniors.

So, how does a community become age-friendly?  Neither this guide, nor the WHO’s Global Age-Friendly Cities: A Guide , whose methodology served as the basis for the qualitative study underlying the current guide, attempts to advise how to best implement a plan to develop an age-friendly community. Rather, both are based on the recognition that leadership by local governments and seniors is critical—and that every part of a community (including provincial governments, voluntary organizations, the private sector and citizens’ groups) can play a role in helping to build age-friendly communities. In terms of how communities achieve age-friendliness, processes can vary as widely as the nature and composition of communities. We leave it up to the communities to make this determination.

At the same time, examples from research and practice can provide insight and practical ideas to support communities in getting started and/or stepping up their efforts.13 The following phased approach represents an amalgamation of some of the processes, steps and tips considered and/or implemented by others. It is intended to offer suggestions and is in no way intended to be prescriptive.

1. Committee Phase—Forming an Age-Friendly Committee/Team

One way to begin the process of building an age-friendly community is to involve multiple stakeholders, both public and private including local provincial and territorial government representatives who are well-placed to encourage collaborative work in this area. As a first step, these representatives can create an opportunity for key participants to become involved. Provinces and territories can be instrumental in such a role, as well as in enlisting other stakeholders in strategic roles.

These stakeholders can include, but are not limited to, elected officials and senior staff at the community level  and representatives from the private, business and volunteer sectors. Seniors and seniors-serving organizations are also key players in developing an age-friendly committee. They can advise on what works and does not work for them. Moreover, they can offer ideas and innovative solutions from their unique perspective. Of course, seniors are not a homogeneous group, and care must be taken to include seniors of varying ages, gender, cultures and abilities—this will ensure a broad and inclusive perspective of their needs, views and suggestions.

2. Assessment Phase—A Community Evaluation

Once established, a local age-friendly community /team can carry out the important task of assessing the age-friendliness of their community using this guide, or other tools.

An assessment of the assets of the community, what contributes to age-friendliness in the community and what does not is often a good place to begin. The checklist in this guide can serve as a starting point. Ideally, a comprehensive assessment helps to identify what a community is already doing well, including how initiatives and programs support an age-friendly community. Results of an assessment of what services, programs and other initiatives exist in the community can serve as a focal point for discussions and expand the dialogue to include many groups. Moreover, it can contribute to the development of a “baseline” for measuring progress and for helping set priorities for action and change.

Some ways that communities have used their assessment findings include:

  • input from the local and provincial/territorial government departments—can help determine the community’s state of readiness, action already underway, strategic plans in place and budgets available
  • input from the community-can contribute to the development of surveys, town hall meetings or forums, and focus groups, the results of which will help planners understand what is in place and what is desirable in the community

3. Planning Phase—Determining Challenges and Opportunities

Using results of a completed assessment, the committee/team is in a good position to identify assets, barriers and strengths of the community, as well as issues that need to be addressed through planning. For example, the planning team can identify ways to build on the strengths, prioritize issues identified and develop recommendations for action which can, in turn, feed into the development of strategies, action plans, timelines, and an analysis of the resources for implementation. Local stakeholder involvement ensures continued community support for both plans and action. Ideally, the strengths and related roles of various stakeholders would be articulated in the plan.

One or more “champions” may be identified as a useful mechanism to help build momentum for planning and action. These individual or group champions may represent seniors, media, and business people and others in the community well-positioned to help influence and promote successful engagement of the community.

4. Implementation Phase—Putting the Plan into Action

Implementation of the community plan can also be carried out in a variety of ways, depending on the needs of the community, the established priorities, the financial and human resources available, and the scope and nature of input from stakeholders. Implementation can be achieved through small steps that can be done by local community members, or through more major initiatives that require resources and contributions from a wider area (e.g., provincial/territorial governments) and the collaborative efforts of a range of groups.

5. Monitoring Progress

By including clear and measurable goals and targets in implementation plans, communities can monitor their progress toward increased age-friendliness. Monitoring also enables planners to re-evaluate plans and adjust priorities and targets at predetermined intervals. Ideally, monitoring is an ongoing process.

Looking Ahead

Building on work underway, a number of federal, provincial/territorial and international partners (including the WHO) will collaborate on evaluation, research and knowledge sharing in support of developing age-friendly communities. Among the results of their work, it is expected that they will put in place a number of opportunities for the exchange of learning and tools that can be adapted by any community. These will include better practices and advice on how to plan and implement age-friendly community plans, as well as tools for measuring progress and success.

 

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