Have you ever had a hard time reading old, faded, twisted street signs? Did you ever feel like taking a rest while out walking and look for a bench, only to look around and find no benches? Have you ever tripped while walking because there were no streetlights to light your way? These are all concerns that Age Friendly Communities address.
Defined by the National Seniors Strategy as a community that “recognizes the great diversity amongst older persons, promotes their inclusion and contributions […] and anticipates and responds flexibly to ageing-related needs,” age friendly communities help to enhance the quality of older adult’s lives. However, they don’t only benefit older adults – they benefit everyone.
The eight facets of an Age Friendly Community
Age friendly communities support the physical, mental, and spiritual wellbeing of all citizens by creating an inclusive, supportive, respectful, and encouraging environment for everyone to live in. These communities aim to be socially connected and relationship focused. Not only are older adults considered when making decisions, they are consulted. Age friendly communities recognize the value that older adults bring to a community, while understanding and trying to meet their age-related needs. Meeting the needs of older citizens can mean making sure sidewalks are cleared and maintained, streets are well lit, housing is affordable and accessible for seniors, community supports exist, and information is easily available. As you can imagine, meeting these needs benefits the entire community. Having well maintained walkways not only benefits older adults, but anyone facing mobility challenges. Having large, readable street signs is as much of a value to the seeing-impaired as it is to seniors. Safe, accessible public transportation is of value to everyone. Community members of all ages and all abilities benefit from a safe, inclusive, respectful, accessible community. Simply put, age friendly communities are a great place to grow up and to grow old.
At Age Friendly Cold Lake, we’re fortunate enough to have our city council supporting our efforts to make Cold Lake a great place to grow old. Transportation is a huge barrier for many seniors, and our city offers several different transportation options – a free public transit system as well as the Adaptive Transit Service. More recently, our city council has passed their medical transportation grant, which will reimburse eligible applicants a portion of their travel fees when travelling out of town for medical appointments. At Age Friendly, we are pleased to announce our newest service, The Lakeland Regional Senior Services. This will encompass housekeeping, meal assistance, and transportation for out-of-town medical appointments.
There are endless economic, social, environmental, and health benefits to age friendly communities. Older adults add wisdom, knowledge, and skill to their neighbourhoods. They can educate and mentor younger generations, and according to a Harvard article, they interact more with their neighbours and communities more than any other age
group. However, if communities don’t commit to becoming more age friendly, many older adults will leave for accessible communities that help them live healthily and independently. The steps we take today to make our communities more welcoming for all of their citizens will reap rewards for today’s seniors, as well as tomorrow’s seniors – us.