All of us have a stake in ensuring our community is responsive to the needs of everyone as we age. This requires that citizens with diverse perspectives and roles be aware of the contributions older adults make within our community, celebrate the ways in which Niagara has already made progress towards becoming age-friendly and consider what they can do to help champion this work.
Today’s older adults make valuable contributions to the community, ranging from countless hours of volunteer work to their economic impact as consumers.
- Approximately 37% of the Niagara population is 55 years and over, compared to 30% for the rest of Canada (Statistics Canada, 2016).
- Current population growth in Niagara is from commuters and retirees moving to Niagara (Economic Discussion for Long-Term Regional Planning Issues in Niagara Region, June 2016)
- Most of today’s older adults are well and active, healthier and living longer to unprecedented levels, all of which provides for great opportunities.
- Older adults make up the bulk of the volunteer corps in many local community organizations.
- Baby Boomers control the bulk of wealth and spending; they spend 66% more on goods and services than millennial households (Environics Analytics).
Celebrate Niagara’s Success
There is a global movement towards age-friendly community planning and Niagara is making good progress toward this goal.
Globally, the World Health Organization has fostered the development of “age-friendly communities” by identifying the relevant domains ranging from social inclusion to appropriate housing. The Government of Canada has recently appointed a new Minister of Seniors and the Province of Ontario has demonstrated leadership and support for age-friendly communities since 2013.
In Niagara, the Age-Friendly Niagara Network (AFNN) has engaged hundreds of people in the community, to develop the Niagara Aging Strategy and Action Plan. The AFNN is currently implementing priority goals from among the 100 actions identified by the community to ensure that all people, regardless of age, ability, need or capacity, are included in all aspects of community life.
- Provides a framework for decision-makers to connect with what local older people are thinking
- Reflects strong community leadership and volunteer commitment across Niagara
- Brings diverse perspectives of people, organizations, institutions,
municipalities and businesses together, to focus on community belonging for people of all ages in Niagara.
Three Niagara municipalities (St. Catharines, Thorold and Welland) have also recently received provincial awards for their local age-friendly achievements.
Become a Champion
There is an unprecedented opportunity for political and community champions to take up the age-friendly communities cause.
Leadership at all political levels is needed and local municipal and community champions are key partners in age-friendly strategies. It is important to develop municipal strategies that serve intergenerational needs and community development for all ages. Get involved in your local community or join the Age-Friendly Niagara Network.
The volunteer-led Age-Friendly Niagara Network prepared and adapted this information into a two-page Candidate Brief that was distributed to 2018 municipal incumbents and candidates to help engage them in issues affecting everyone in our community.
Consider your own role within Niagara.
How can you stay informed, celebrate success and become a champion to help make Niagara a “Community for all ages”?
Dominic Ventresca & Cathy Fusco
Co-Chairs, Age-Friendly Niagara Network