In my last few blogs I discussed some of the central themes challenging contemporary planners – things like the importance of meaningful public consultation to elicit “on-the ground” information to be infused into projects, plans and policies; the need for cities to become more resilient in light of peak oil and climate change; and, the need for municipal, regional, provincial and federal governments to provide direction and incentives for the facilitation of green building in our communities.
In this blog I turn my attention to one more theme challenging Canadian planners: our ageing population.
In 2010, the median age in Canada was 39.7 years. In 1971, the median age was 13.5 years younger (26.2 years). Seniors (those 65 years and older) constitute our fastest-growing age group and this trend is forecasted to continue. In 2010, there were 4.8 million seniors in Canada, a number that is expected to more than double over the next 25 years to reach 10.4 million seniors by 2036 – and by 2051, one in four Canadians is expected to be a senior. (Source: Human Resources and Skills Development Canada)
These startling population changes will transform our communities, from housing needs and preferences, to transportation requirements and social and medical services. It will also heighten the need for designing communities that are more responsive to people who are less mobile.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO) an age-friendly 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 capabilities.
There are many things planners can do to facilitate more age-friendly communities:
- Design new communities and/or retrofit existing ones so they contain a range of housing tenures and typologies and offer accessible, affordable public transit.
- Implement Gil Penalosa’s 8-80 rule when designing roads.
- Encourage healthy living by offering a range of exercise and active living programs tailored to older adult’s preferences.
- Encourage a robust range of programs to enable contribution to the cultural life of the community and provide opportunities for intergenerational learning opportunities.
- Promote universal design in new housing construction and build partnerships between housing and service providers.
- Mix uses to ensure that daily-needs can be accessed either on foot or by public-transit.
So how do municipalities get started on addressing the “gray tsunami”? The Ontario Professional Planner’s Institute suggests preparing an Age-Friendly Community Plan
process that entails:
- Preparing an age-friendly community audit of municipal plans, operations and services that review community elements such as housing, community services and health care,
streetscape design, mobility options, and leisure and learning opportunities.
- Establishing baseline data to understand the place specific community composition.
- Identifying priority issues and responses related to the changing demographics and
utilization of these priorities to establish an action plan.
- Creating monitoring mechanisms on a five-year increment basis (aligning with Census
Canada data releases) to review and manage demographic change and impacts.
- Creating a toolkit and success story manual for community partners and agencies to utilize
to bring about change in their operations.
- Exploring new partnerships and better integration of services between agencies and
non-governmental organizations to provide for an age-friendly community.
For a good example of an age-friendly community strategy, check out the Brantford and Brant County Master Ageing Plan.
Andrzej Schreyer , R.P.P. is a senior land use and environmental planner with Hardy Stevenson and Associates and a member of the Ontario Professional Planners Institute and the Canadian Institute of Planners. His experience includes developing and implementing public participation and communications plans, managing social impact assessments and land use studies in support of infrastructure projects and preparing community-based strategic plans.