Canadian communities support healthy aging by becoming more age-friendly

The World Health Organization (WHO) launched the Global Age-Friendly Cities Project in 2007, which brought together 33 cities in 22 countries, including Canada, that were keen on supporting healthy aging by becoming more age-friendly. The WHO project began by asking older adults and those who work with older adults to identify features they liked about their city as well as features that could be improved, according to the University of Manitoba.

Since then, more than 900 cities and smaller communities in all 10 Canadian provinces have taken action to become more age-friendly and support active aging based on features identified in eight key domains of community life, says the University of Ottawa.

What does an age-friendly community look like?

Here are eight key features of age-friendly communities, says the Public Health Agency of Canada:

-Outdoor areas and public buildings are pleasant, safe and accessible.

-Housing is affordable, safe and well-designed for seniors.

-Public transportation is affordable and accessible, and roads and walkways are accessible and kept in good shape.

-Neighbourhoods are safe and relationships are respectful.

-Health and community support services are available.

-Older adults have opportunities to be socially active.

-Adults 65+ can take part in volunteer, political and employment positions.

-Information is easy to find and easy to understand.

Senior Couple Boarding Bus Using Wheelchair Access RampA few examples of what Canadian communities are doing to become more age-friendly, says University of Ottawa, include low-floor buses that provide easier access for seniors. Mixed-services neighbourhoods encourage people of all ages to do errands on foot. Benches are being added in public areas, and crosswalks modified at intersections for slower pedestrians.

In some communities, outreach and social programs are also being targeted to seniors who feel isolated. More social activities are also being designed to bring younger and older generations together. Health-related initiatives may include falls prevention classes and health literacy programs.

Age-friendly care and support

Long term care systems are also a fundamental component of age-friendly communities. According to the WHO, long term care enables older people who experience significant declines in capacity to receive the care and support of others consistent with their basic rights, fundamental freedoms and human dignity.

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