Inclusive communities are ageless. An age-friendly community is one where the physical and social environment enable people to live in a secure setting, enjoy health and continue to participate in society regardless of age. We all want equitable access to the things and places that are important to us. The Age-Friendly NL Communities program offers funding to incorporated municipalities and Indigenous governments and communities throughout the province to support planning for changing demographics. Our population is aging and this trend is happening all around the world. Creating inclusive communities is a shared responsibility with roles to be played by various levels of government, community planners, volunteers and the business sector.
Click this link for background information on the global age-friendly movement.
An age-friendly community assessment is an opportunity for all of us to be part of a conversation about the physical and social environments we live in, and want to live in. The assessment looks at eight areas in these environments:
The following resources are also valuable for creating age-friendly communities:
Our physical surroundings, or built environment, includes both buildings and public spaces. These buildings and outdoor spaces can have major impacts on mobility, independence and quality of life. They can also affect peoples’ ability to age in place. We all want and need to get around our environment for a variety of reasons including to shop, work, dine with friends, volunteer, or visit family.
In 1997, a working group of architects, product designers, engineers and environmental design researchers at North Carolina State University developed the principles of Universal Design. These seven principles guide the design of not just environments, but products and communications as well.
The seven principles of universal design:
In Newfoundland and Labrador, Universal Design NL promotes accessibility and inclusion and can assist you in applying universal design principles to your built environment and beyond. Universal Design NL can be reached at https://universaldesignnl.ca/ .
Accessible and affordable public transportation is a key factor influencing active aging. Regardless of how we live, play, and work, we all need access to transportation in order to participate in social, cultural, volunteer and recreational activities, as well as carrying out daily tasks such as working, shopping or going to appointments.
The Disability Policy Office of Children, Seniors and Social Development offers the Accessible Vehicle program to help individuals retrofit their vehicles for accessibility, and an Accessible Taxi program to help taxi companies add accessible vehicles to their fleet.
Accessible, affordable housing is key to enabling people to remain independent for as long as possible. Housing is essential for people’s well-being. The ability to live independently in one’s own home depends on a range of factors, including health, finances and the availability of support services. Many older persons feel that they could continue to live in their own homes under certain conditions.
The National Housing Strategy is a 10-year, $40-billion plan to create a new generation of housing in Canada, giving more Canadians a place to call home. To view the Strategy, visit the following link https://www.cmhc-schl.gc.ca/en/nhs .
Social participation and social support are strongly connected to good health and well-being throughout life. Participating in leisure, social, cultural and spiritual activities in the community, as well as with the family, allows people to continue to exercise their competence, to enjoy respect and esteem, and to maintain or establish supportive and caring relationships. It fosters social integration and is the key to staying informed.
The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador has teamed up with ParticipACTION and Recreation Newfoundland and Labrador to develop a Physical Activity Toolkit for Older Adults. The Toolkit can be viewed at the following link: Physical Activity Toolkit For Older Adults .
Seniors report experiencing conflicting types of behaviour and attitudes towards them. On the one hand, many feel they are often respected, recognized and included, while on the other, they experience lack of consideration in the community, in services and in the family. This clash is explained in terms of a changing society and behavioural norms, lack of contact between generations, and widespread ignorance about aging and older people in general. It is clear from the consultation that the respect and social inclusion of older people depend on more than societal change: factors such as culture, gender, health status and economic status play a large role. The extent to which older people participate in the social, civic and economic life of their community is also closely linked to their experience of inclusion.
The Office of the Seniors' Advocate is an independent office of the House of Assembly of Newfoundland and Labrador. This Office has authority to identify, review and analyze systemic issues related to seniors and make recommendations respecting changes to improve seniors' services. For more information on the Office visit the following website: https://www.seniorsadvocatenl.ca/ .
Seniors do not stop contributing to their communities once they retire. Many continue to provide unpaid and voluntary work for their families and communities. An age-friendly community provides options for older people to continue to contribute to their communities, through paid employment or voluntary work if they so choose, and to be engaged in the political process.
The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador provides employment assistance to people living in Newfoundland and Labrador. For further information, please visit the following website: https://www.cssd.gov.nl.ca/poverty/guidebook/employment.html.
Staying connected with events and people and getting timely, practical information to manage life and meet personal needs is vital for active aging. Rapidly evolving information and communication technologies can be both useful tools and instruments of social exclusion. The most important concern should be to have relevant information that is readily accessible to seniors with varying capacities.
SeniorsNL is a provincial, not-for-profit organization that offers information and referral services to seniors, families, and caregivers throughout the province. Call 1-800-563-5599 or visit http://www.seniorsnl.ca/ for more information.
Health and support services are vital to maintaining health and independence in the community. Many people raise concerns about the availability of sufficient good quality, appropriate and accessible care. Older people everywhere voice a clear desire for basic health and income support. Health care costs tend to increase as we age.
The Department of Health and Community Services offers many services of interest to seniors. Information can be obtained by visiting: https://www.health.gov.nl.ca/health/seniors/.