According to Statistics Canada, the population of those age 85 and older is expected to triple over the next 25 years. Many say this means metropolitan areas will need to become significantly more age-friendly.
Cities tend to have better access to needed services and amenities such as hospitals, long-term care and age-appropriate housing. For this reason, higher percentages of older populations live in downtown cores versus outlying areas.
Canada’s health-care and long-term care systems are already challenged. The ‘grey wave’ on the horizon will push these systems to their breaking point unless Canada makes some important changes.
Anthony Quinn, Director of Community Affairs at CARP notes that 96 per cent of CARP’s members intend to age in place. But the reality, he says, is that “right now we cannot meet the demand of people wanting and needing to live in their homes.” Improvements such as more support workers or registered nurses would go a long way towards enabling aging in place. Often older individuals need some support with daily activities such as dressing. These types of needs often aren’t a justification for long-term care facilities, but without adequate home care support long-term care may seem the best option.
Long-term care facilities are stretched province-wide. In Ontario, for example, more than 38,000 people are on the wait list to access a long-term-care bed.
While the situation may sound dire, it has been long anticipated and many experts have informed suggestions for how to make cities more age-friendly. Now we just need to ensure the government heeds the experts:
- Increase practical healthcare supports such as home care and nursing;
- Ensure supports and tax breaks to make homes more accessible ;
- Better support unpaid caregivers;
- Improve social supports such as friendly visitors and programs at community centres;
- Ensure resources and services are sensitive to the particular challenges of vulnerable older populations such as racialized communities;
- Make urban infrastructure changes such as more washrooms and parks or extended walk time at crosswalks.
READ MORE what the experts have to say about the need for age-friendly cities.