Advancing Age-Friendly Communities in Canada

By Plouffe, Louise A.; Garon, Suzanne et al. | Canadian Review of Social Policy, January 1, 2012 | Go to article overview

Advancing Age-Friendly Communities in Canada


Plouffe, Louise A., Garon, Suzanne, Brownoff, Judy, Eve, Donelda, Foucault, Marie-Lynne, Lawrence, Rosemary, Lessard-Beaupré, Jean-Philippe, Toews, Vicki, Canadian Review of Social Policy


Abstract

The "age-friendly cities" concept proposed by the World Health Organization (WHO) is a multi-sectoral policy approach to address demographic aging in urban settings. Canadian governments at all levels, seniors' organizations and non-governmental organizations have embraced this model for creating environments to support healthy, active aging. This paper describes how Canadian governments and partners have advanced the Age-Friendly Communities (AFC) initiative starting with the original development by WHO in 2006-07 to its current status five years later, involving the federal government, eight provinces, and 850 municipalities. With evidence of actions taken at the three levels of government, it is argued here that the successful evolution of AFC in Canada is the fruit of the national, collaborative leadership role played the Public Health Agency of Canada, the commitment of provincial partners to implement AFC fully in their jurisdiction, and the engagement of municipalities in creative and comprehensive community development with and for seniors.

Résumé

Le concept de « villes-amies des aÎnés » proposé par l'Organisation mondiale de la Santé (OMS) est une approche politique multisectorielle qui vise à répondre au vieillissement démographique en milieu urbain. Tous les ordres de gouvernement au Canada, les organismes s'occupant des aÎnés et les organismes non gouvernementaux ont adopté ce modèle pour créer des milieux propices à un vieillissement actif et en bonne santé. Ce document décrit comment les gouvernements canadiens et leurs partenaires ont fait progresser l'initiative des communautés-amies des aÎnés, depuis sa création par l'OMS en 2006-2007 jusqu'à la situation actuelle, cinq ans après, avec la participation du gouvernement fédéral, de huit provinces et de 850 municipalités. Compte tenu des mesures mises en place par les trois ordres de gouvernement, ce document explique que le développement réussi des communautés-amies des aÎnés au Canada est le fruit de plusieurs facteurs : le rôle moteur national et collaboratif joué par l'Agence de la santé publique du Canada, l'engagement des partenaires provinciaux à mettre pleinement en place le concept de communautés-amies des aÎnés sur leur territoire, et l'implication des municipalités en faveur d'un aménagement créatif et global de leur collectivité pour et avec les aÎnés.

Introduction

Population aging and urbanization are two of the most significant trends shaping the 21st century. The number of persons aged 60 and over as a proportion of the global population will double from 11% in 2006 to 22% by 2050, at which point it will have surpassed the number of children aged 0-14 years for the first time in human history (United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, 2006). More than half of the world's inhabitants now live in urban settings, and their number and proportion will continue to increase. In Canada, the percentage of seniors (age 65 and older) will rise from 14% in 2006 to 25% in 2036 (Turcotte & Schellenberg , 2007). While the vast majority of Canadian seniors live in cities or towns (Turcotte & Schellenberg, 2007) in many provinces and territories, the proportion of seniors residing in rural areas is significant: 77% in the Northwest Territories, 55% in Newfoundland, 47% in Saskatchewan, 43% in New Brunswick, and 40% in Nova Scotia (Federal, Provincial and Territorial Ministers Responsible for Seniors, 2006).

The "age-friendly cities" concept was proposed by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a policy response to demographic aging and urbanization (WHO, 2007). Its goal is to promote active aging in urban physical, social, and service environments that are accessible and inclusive (WHO, 2007). It is grounded in the WHO Active ageing framework in which the concept of active aging is defined as the "process of optimizing opportunities for health, participation and security of persons as they age" (WHO, 2002, p 12). …

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