Age-Friendly Communities – a Sheridan College Event.

An Age-Friendly Communities conversation presented by the Sheridan College Centre for Elder Research comes to the Oakville Campus on Nov.29th. Perhaps this is long overdue for a revisit for those in the know about this concept; however, despite what the opening line on the invite suggests I suspect that this could be an opportunity for a first time hearing for many, regardless of age, who live in the Halton Region.

Since 2007, when the World Health Organization (WHO) produced the first Global Age Friendly Cities Guide, a Global Network for Age-friendly Cities and Communities was established in 2010 and today there are over 705 cities and communities in 39 countries, covering over 210 million people worldwide participating in this network. One could say it has become a global movement.

In Ontario Canada, there are currently 29 communities, large and small, registered in the WHO network but none yet in my Halton Region. The closest city in the network geographically is Hamilton, which is not to say that there is no age-friendly activity in Halton.

Heather Thompson is the guest speaker at the Sheridan event in three weeks’ time. She is has led the initiatives of the Burlington Age-Friendly Council since 2013, and is shepherding a Halton Age-Friendly Network.

So what will it take for Burlington (already ahead of the game), and the other Halton communities of Oakville, Milton and Halton Hills to move ahead from thier present status in the age-friendly movement to join the Global Network? Clues to that answer are to be found in the on-line WHO application process.

We are all future beneficiaries of age friendly communities.

However, as with most start-up community based endeavours it begins with raising basic awareness, which is what this Nov.29th Sheridan event will hopefully continue to accomplish. Let’s hope there is some good press coverage. Certainly, the corporate sponsorship by Revera is proof enough that the age-friendly communities movement in the Halton Region deserves more traction.  More than that, I do hope that this event attracts more of an inter-generational audience.

As I commented in my 2017 post celebrating the WHO Age-Friendly Cities 10th anniversary, the Age Friendly concept is most often seen as a collection of “seniors” projects with little recognition of the fact that in order to catch the spirit of the game, you must be relevant to everyone. We are all future beneficiaries of age friendly communities.

Remembering the quote from Bernard Isaacs, Professor of Geriatric Medicine, “design for the old and you include the young.”

The moment you stick the word seniors or elderly in front of any age-friendly messaging, (as some cities have done), you have to ask – who are you excluding? I don’t think the original intent was to build Age Friendly as a seniors exclusive vision. Far from it. The original WHO document rotates around the life-course model and the 2007 document states, that “active ageing is a lifelong process, an age-friendly city is not just “elderly-friendly”.

One thing that makes the Sheridan Centre for Elder Research the perfect setting for encouraging this inter-generational conversation on age friendly, is that a young adult student population is right there, and they should be getting this Nov.29th invite, with a more targeted “why should I care” message in their hands.

Over the last few years, I have had the pleasure and privilege to meet some of the Sheridan students who have conducted research projects through the centre. As recently as last week, I had a wonderful student research interview and conversation with one such student on the subject of caregiving. Once you get talking, you quickly realize they do care and they are watching – how their parents are framing their later life experience – even if they aren’t saying age-friendly.

I will report on this Sheridan Age-Friendly Communities event in my first post in early December.

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