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"Ever wonder if City Council is as contentious and chaotic as it is sometimes portrayed? Here you can get a progressive perspective on some of the issues from someone who spent four years in the trenches. Totally unbiased, though! Feel free to comment but keep it respectful, just like they do at council."

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

What does it mean to be an age-friendly city?

A few days ago, London became the first city in Canada to be admitted to the World Health Organization’s global network of age-friendly cities. It felt good to be included with world-class cities like Brussels, Geneva, New York and Portland which were also part of the inaugural launch. But what exactly does it mean to be an age-friendly city?

In order to be accepted to the network, the city had to demonstrate that it had consulted its population of seniors and ascertained their assessments of London according to a checklist prepared by the World Health Organization (WHO). Additionally, the Mayor and Chief Administrative Officer prepared letters to attest to the city’s commitment to establishing independent baseline measures and developing targets for increased age-friendliness where warranted and a plan for achieving those targets over a five year period. Council unanimously endorsed a resolution to do this.

I first became aware of the Age-Friendly Cities initiative when I was asked to bring greetings on behalf of the Mayor at a conference sponsored by the Alzheimer’s Society. This assignment spurred me into researching the work that had been done in 35 cities around the world which resulted in the development of the Age-Friendly Checklist.

The keynote speaker at that conference was none other than Louise Plouffe from the Public Health Agency of Canada who is one of two creators of the WHO initiative. Her presentation was intriguing to me both as a politician and as a sociologist. When the issue arose at a Creative Cities meeting, I volunteered to undertake a local initiative.

I soon learned that I was not the only one interested in this issue. Professionals from UWO, the Alzheimer’s Society, the Dearness Home, London Health Sciences, McCormick’s Retirement Home, Senior’s Centres , the City of London Planning Department and Community Services Department and other members of council as well as members of the general public were anxious to be involved. Our working group certainly benefitted from the work that had been done previously as well as gaining awareness of ongoing initiatives going on in many parts of the city.

Our initiative was focussed on what seniors in London experience as members of the community. We wanted to find out how well London functions for them in terms of housing, transportation, its public spaces, its provisions of health and social services, its opportunities for inclusion and participation.

To do this, we undertook a number of different approaches. First, we had a one day symposium at the London Civic Gardens in which we had 80 senior participants discuss what it it like to live in London along a number of dimensions. Specially trained volunteers facilitated the discussions and recorded the content for later analysis. Second, I prepared a survey to be distributed in hard copy and electronically to seniors living in London. Third, the respondents to the survey were invited to meet in focus groups to discuss the issues in greater detail. Fourth, I met with various groups of seniors in senior’s buildings and community organizations in order to get more detail. Finally, a Steering Committee of the larger Working Group analyzed the data and prepared a final report.

Here is an electronic copy of the report. If you would like a hard copy, please contact me at gbarber@london.ca


Graeme Meyer said...

With partners we thank vast economic benefit mature residents have not only to City of London business also maintaining London heritage and history of longevity of thought. Society changes and we acknowledge in greater scheme how these changes are true to nature of freedom. Residents are free to express love or grievance against rulers as has been the case for centuries. However opinions differ amongst residents we strive to build Strong Robust Communities in London. We all win. Sacrifices of few contribute to London's remarkable transformation from rural outpost to industrial hub to manufacturing center to future prosperity and individual rights for which many assure me are necessary for attracting bright vibrant minds.

Penn Kemp said...

This week I'm giving two poetry workshops at the Dearness Home Summer Arts Camp. First I read the "Age Friendly" poem that Gina invited me to write... and read. I'll also be reading the poem on July 28, 6:30 pm. at Midsummer Madness BBQ. Eastpark, London. Contact: Shawn, MathyI1@parl.gc.ca. Fun to share the piece!

Thanks, Gina!!

Anonymous said...

Do wonder how many who are actually having the "Senior" experience of London's amenities are reporting to these studies. The focus seems to be on those who can get to meetings, which hardly is the whole story of life here. And on those who just make their living in the 'seniors industry', perhaps with different agendas from those born by the war's end, vs the upcoming brief demographic band of the veterans' offspring until the introduction of the Pill.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Meyer makes an important point. The new cohort of Pension-aged Londoners, majority women are major resource to maintaina
"corporate memory" the heritage/ history oflongevity of thought.
There are people around still who were children during the Great War, who knew who was who and what was what through decades of local change.
But, while ex-Service personnel are being debriefed, is anyone listening to the insights on 20th century local scene and change generally of the 'little old lady' in the neighbourhood -("grannies" as media like to call us despite our personal reproductive histories) ??