Age-Friendly: Progress in Peterborough 2017

In follow-up to the Planet Longevity July blog post Age-Friendly: Ten Years On, 2007-2017, here it is fitting and timely that we now have in our hands to share, the Peterborough, Ontario – Age-Friendly Community Action Plan, released in June 2017. This plan summary is a wonderful piece of work, reflecting the careful and thoughtful process this community engaged in over a number of years, further supported through a grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation.

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One of the striking things that pops out immediately in the reading is the language of inclusiveness and in particular referring to the ongoing needs of “older adults”. Full praise for the consistency of use of this term, as it lends itself to imagine a population that is broader and more diverse in nature than what that tired word seniors evokes. Language is a quirky thing. You even hear younger adults now say how tired they are, being referred to as millennials.

At the risk of creating a distraction from the positive message of the Age-Friendly movement, for a moment it is worth poking the dialogue to say that while there are those who don’t take any exception to being called a senior, there is however another newer wave of older adults out there who are less inclined to identify with that. Let future proponents of the Age-Friendly movement take note.

Though seniors is referenced in the content, which can’t be helped based on historical usage, it does not in this document take away from the underlying message of Age-Friendly. Having read and viewed a number of the Age-Friendly plans and websites, this Peterborough stands as a model example of how the language of age-friendly can connect the dots more succinctly for a wider audience.

As a comparative to Peterborough, the 2017 Oakville baseline study, referred to in my previous blog post, still leans too much on the term Seniors as opposed to older adults. As well composed as the Oakville baseline is, with recognition of the diversity of those over age 55, the mixed definer language breaks down the various older cohorts but it has a dated sound to it. Perhaps future updates, with more input from others will develop a different tone for an inter-generational conversation.

Noteworthy praise goes to Peterborough for weaving the inter-generational connections in its Age-Friendly plan (Page 35) while at the same time as recognizing the urban and rural distinctions of the greater region – and capturing the voice of the First Nations community which again is inclusive in the scope of the plan. Regionally and certainly within larger cities this cultural aspect is a significant part of the conversation that will need more attention as it fits within the eight dimensions of the 2007 WHO Age Friendly model.

Age-Friendly Peterborough is worth the download to read and learn.

 

Mark Venning

Age-Friendly: Ten Years On, 2007-2017

Some global movements start up with all the best of intentions, but not all pick up traction, nor given enough time to develop in the collective mind-share of the public. Initiatives such as Habitat for Humanity for example, which has roots going back to the mid 1970’s, stand out largely because the concept serves a basic need everyone can immediately identify with anywhere around the world; and of course gather celebrity endorsement and participation from the likes of people such as former US President Jimmy Carter.

Planet Longevity, since our beginning, continues to promote the Age-Friendly Cities initiative as first introduced by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2007. In 2015, we did a three part blog series titled Age Friendly Canada: Time for a Reboot suggesting that we still had a long way to go to elevate the awareness of what has steadily become a global movement.

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Now ten years on, (checking out the WHO Age-Friendly World website) – there are now 500 communities that have adopted this movement in 37 countries. Canada has 59 communities at various stages of development. My city, the Town of Oakville has finally nudged past the rudimentary public “survey stage” and released an initial Age-Friendly “baseline study” in January 2017 – approved by Town Council in April.

As was referenced in our October 2015 post, one of our Planet Longevity members Suzanne Cook, became a participant in two of 56 community grant projects awarded in the Ontario the Age-Friendly Community Planning Grant Program. Suzanne has served in an academic research advisory role for Cobourg and Peterborough, Ontario as these communities conducted needs assessments with an eye to develop action plans for age-friendly programs.

In the case of Peterborough, as reported in the June 23 Examiner “Age-Friendly Peterborough plan takes shape”, the process seems to have gone beyond the assessment phase and is now in front of their city council for adoption. As Trent University’s Elizabeth Russell, Faculty Fellow with the Trent Centre for Aging & Society, is quoted in the article: “…evidence… shows us that this type of planning is much more effective in the longer term…”

True enough, but taking a leaf from the book in the Habitat experience, the marketing messaging on Age-Friendly Communities could take on a sharper tone, for the basic human need for healthy active aging is relevant to all generations. Inter-generational connections is mentioned as one part of the Peterborough vision, but in order for that to happen, the language of age-friendly needs to connect the dots more succinctly than it currently does in order for the movement to grow into the next decade.

 

Mark Venning

Age-Friendly Canada: Time to Reboot!

Part Three

As a postscript to part two of Age-Friendly Canada: Time to Reboot, we leave off here with some general thoughts around brand messaging. The Age-Friendly concept is a growing movement and that is a good thing. Some cities globally, including in Canada, grabbed on to this early on and some more recently, and are largely hosted by local Seniors councils or groups, supported further by municipal and provincial governments. Some communities are still deliberating.

So – Age-Friendly Community. What if you are a citizen, walking the streets of your city or town and you never heard of this phrase before? You don’t know it is a global initiative launched a decade ago. How does it sound when you hear it? How does it relate to you as you actually read about it?

How would you pitch age-friendly?

Considering this WHO initiative, once explained, builds intelligently around eight key themes, as illustrated by a flower petal graphic; how would you pitch it in 50 words or less to someone of any age without any screen shots on an app or notes in your hand to prompt you? How about we start with this version in 49 words:

“An age-friendly city (community) encourages active ageing by optimizing opportunities for health, participation and security in order to enhance quality of life as people age. In practical terms, an age-friendly city adapts its structures and services to be accessible to and inclusive of older people with varying needs and capacities” WHO 2007

Perhaps well said in 17 words – Bernard Isaacs, (leading Gerontology professor in the UK who died twenty years ago in 1995), was once quoted saying; “Design for the young and you exclude the old. Design for the old and you include everyone.” By this, we are to mean of course in this context – community design.

Reshape age-friendly marketing language

The first temptation for many I listen to, who live and breathe the Age-Friendly discussion, is to either get easily lost in the words of this multi-layered concept, and/or in many cases, turn it more into a Seniors-exclusive monologue, making it at first passing, potentially less resonant to that someone of any age.

At second passing, if you look at the well-intentioned messaging on many city Age-Friendly web sites, the tone of the content and the visuals supporting the brand messaging further frame the dialogue with the same Seniors monologue texture. Yet as we know, demographics are shifting, not only at the Boomer cohort level; Gen X for example is now tipping into their early 50’s and well, you know the rest.

If Age-Friendly brand messaging is going to reach more people, then the leaders and thinkers currently dedicated to the dialogue, have to look outwards to include, or at least induce a more direct line of sight to a value conversation for younger cohorts at the life stage they are at currently. A reshape of Age-Friendly marketing language is advantageous at this time – entering its second decade, to reboot the messaging and engage inter-generational voices.

After meeting and talking with people in all age cohorts about Age-Friendly over the past year, I have been encouraged, enough to say that there is more opportunity for moderating forums through stronger, targeted invitation in such a way that it matters to more people of any age.

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Worth a look lastly, one maybe not so small example at how it can be done – full respect to Age-friendly Belfast and their Intergenerational Guide and Toolkit.

 

Mark Venning

Age-Friendly Canada: Time to Reboot!

Part One: Updating the Context

In 2007, the World Health Organization (WHO) produced the Global Age-Friendly Cities guide, the result of a two-year project that involved the participation of 33 cities around the world, including four from Canada – Halifax, Portage La Prairie, Saanich and Sherbrooke. Canada hosted the first 2006 meeting of this group in Vancouver. One of the leadership connections to this global initiative is Canadian, Louise Plouffe, who along with Alexandre Kalache from Brazil, directed the entire project from its conception in 2005.

Here we are ten years after that conception. Where are we now? On a global basis, the Age-Friendly movement has grown and over 280 communities are now active in the actual WHO network, proclaimed now as an Age-Friendly World. You can browse the directory on the site and look for the city profiles.

age-friendly-in-practice-460pxBut what of Saanich BC for example; one of the original cities in the WHO project, for some reason not in this new directory? The 2014 update on their Age-Friendly website shows one particular initiative, the “Trust Me” Project Inter-generational Dialogues, which is in harmony with our Planet Longevity theme this year around “Inter-generational Connections”. Full marks for this, we hope it is still ongoing.

In Canada, there are well over 1000 Age-Friendly projects underway and in Ontario alone this year, the Age-Friendly Community Planning Grant Program, under the Ontario Seniors’ Secretariat Action Plan for Seniors, has funded $1.5 million to 56 communities to roll out projects that are to be complete by March 2017.

In Ontario, one can say that we now have some significant traction on age-friendly community planning, boosted by this modest amount of funding. The general scope of this grant is to encourage communities, who may or may not have a full grasp of the age-friendly initiative, to conduct needs assessments and evaluations for the development of age-friendly action plans for their community.

Yet most of the current communities, including some of the 56 funded this year, do not have a large organizational structure or budget, and are led by inspired volunteer community leaders and concerned citizens at large, trying to make a difference. Some have local community partnerships, information-filled web sites and promote regular community events. Some do not.

While the world is concerned about the effect of population aging, meeting the needs of an older demographic in urban environments, one way to help with the effectiveness of an age-friendly plan, is to cultivate a sensibility that this is not exclusively a dialogue for seniors. Public consultations and research in these Ontario communities over the next 18 months will ideally engage conversations with inter-generational perspectives that we are so keen to see.

This links to what is stated in the WHO Age-Friendly World site: “An age-friendly city fosters solidarity among generations within communities, facilitating social relationships and bonds between residents of all ages. Opportunities for residents from different backgrounds and demographics to interact and get to know each other facilitates community integration.”

So with this in mind, as we enter this Age-Friendly second decade – it is time for a reboot!

 

Mark Venning