Age-Friendly Communities Seminar Report – Ottawa, Oct 15, 2009

I had the pleasure of attending the Age-Friendly Communities Forum held in Ottawa on October 15th. Representatives from the provincial government and many agencies that support Ottawa seniors were in attendance. The purpose of the forum was to explain how the “age-friendly” criteria were developed and discuss how they could be implemented in Ottawa.

The World Health Organization consulted with 33 cities in 22 countries to determine what features in a community would make it senior friendly. The survey found the results to be fairly similar in countries around the world and upon study determined that not only did these features make communities senior friendly, but that they made the community friendly for all age groups. Common features were safe outdoor spaces and building such as sidewalks in good repair, well lit, wide enough for wheel chairs, ample seating and easily accessible and clean public toilets.

Transportation features included ample parking and drop-off areas for people with special needs and vans or shuttles available for transporting seniors and people with disabilities. Sufficient, affordable housing close to services, as well as independent living and long term care facilities close to the community were deemed to be essential. Aside from these physical measures, activities and social participation were necessary to promoting a sense of social inclusion and ‘a reason for being.’ Employment and volunteer opportunities for older adults, as well as workplaces adapted to the needs of disable people were identified as essential.

Finally, accessible and available health services, including home care, rounded out the age-friendly community features. It is clear that all of the above would make any community more attractive to people of all ages! Speakers from the City of Ottawa, United Way, OC Transpo and other community support groups spoke on various initiatives underway in our community to align with the guiding principle of being ‘age-friendly’, wrapping up with a discussion of the first seniors’ park in both Ottawa and Ontario.

Keywords: seniors, housing, accessibility