The most interesting and inspiring seminar I attended during the recent AMO (Association of Municipalities of Ontario) convention was “Synergies for Senior Friendly Communities.” It was about creating “age-friendly communities,” not simply for seniors, but heavily tilted in their direction.*
Speakers included Mario Sergio, Minister responsible for seniors (Ontario Seniors’ Secretariat); Mayor Debbie Amaroso, of Sault Ste. Marie, Mayor Jim Watson, of Ottawa; and Dr. John Lewis, associate professor of planning for the University of Waterloo. I also benefitted by sitting beside Mayor Rick Hamilton, of Elliot Lake, who gave me commentary from his town’s perspective on many of the issues raised, as well as speaking to me afterwards about specific issues I questioned.
The session provided a lot of ideas and processes that I believe we can bring to Collingwood. We do many things right, here, and we have a generally senior-friendly community, but the seminar told me we can – and should – do more. And it talked about the need to formalize our approach, strategize and create a long-range plan. We can’t do this ad hoc.
Provided for all participants were two publications: “Finding the Right Fit: Age-Friendly Community Planning,” a 112-page manual produced by the Province’s Seniors’ Secretariat, and the City of Ottawa’s 40-page “Older Adult Plan, 2012-2014.” Both are invaluable guides for the process. The Secretariat also publishes “A Guide to Programs and Services for Seniors in Ontario.” All of these are available in PDF format, online.
AFC is a designation, not simply a philosophy or policy behind planning and recreational activity programming. You have to apply for the designation, perform several steps, and obtain your certificate from the World Health Organization (WHO). As the WHO site notes,
The WHO Global Network of Age-friendly Cities and Communities (GNAFCC) was established to foster the exchange of experience and mutual learning between cities and communities worldwide. Any city or community that is committed to creating inclusive and accessible urban environments to benefit their ageing populations is welcome to join.
Cities and communities in the Network are of different sizes and are located in different parts of the world. Their efforts to become more age-friendly take place within very diverse cultural and socio-economic contexts. What all members of the Network do have in common is the desire and commitment to create physical and social urban environments that promote healthy and active ageing and a good quality of life for their older residents.
There’s nothing onerous in the process, but it has to be followed closely to avoid being rejected. The WHO recommends a 1-2 year planning process of four steps:
- Establishment of mechanisms to involve older people throughout the Age-friendly City cycle.
- A baseline assessment of the age-friendliness of the city.
- Development of a 3-year city wide plan of action based on assessment findings.
- Identification of indicators to monitor progress.
This should be followed by an implementation program in years 3 to 5. WHO notes:
On completion of stage 1, and no later than two years after joining the Network, cities will submit their action plan to WHO for review and endorsement. Upon endorsement by WHO, cities will then have a three-year period of implementation.
Following this, there’s an evaluation process at the end of year 5.
At the end of the first period of implementation, cities will be required to submit a progress report to WHO outlining progress against indicators developed in stage 1.
Nothing we can’t do here. In fact, I think we could become a shining example for AFCs in Southern Ontario.