The Canadian population is aging and with that comes the need to change how municipalities plan communities so that people can age in place, and remain active and connected.
The Township of Langley first adopted the Age-and Dementia-Friendly Action Plan in 2014 and updated it as of December based on the work by its Age-Related Task Force. It is designed to be implemented over a five-year period.
The plan isn’t just about what the Township does in terms of policy and programs, but also how it plays a role in bringing together community partners to collaborate and coordinate supporting older residents, as well as those who care for them.
“Income inequality, urbanization, climate change, rapidly evolving technology, and other social trends significantly impact older adults, lack of social supports, living on a fixed income, or having conditions that impact mobility are just a few of the many barriers that can reduce their safety, connectedness, and well-being,” the Township plan said.
Nearly 24,000 people aged 65 or older are living in the Township of Langley, making up 16.8 per cent of the total population. By 2030, this age group is projected to increase to 38,000 (21.6 per cent); by 2046, it is expected to increase to 52,500 (23.9 per cent).
Township Councillor Petrina Arnason is on the task force and said the municipality is actively planning for not only current residents but also those who will live here in the years to come.
The age-friendly and dementia-friendly strategies are actually a bargain because so many of the elements will also help other residents.
“Our age friendly plan is actually an inter-generational plan,” Arnason said.
The same non-slip surfaces at a local park, for instance, also work for parents pushing strollers, people with limited mobility who may use a scooter, or the average person out for a stroll.
“It’s really a win-win,” she said.
Arnason added having such plans makes a big difference in the quality of life in a community, but comes with nominal costs. If, for instance, the Township is refurbishing a walking trail, the plan offers ways to make it more accessible to more people. That could mean informative signage so people know whether the trail is suitable for those who can’t manage steep sections, assessing what surface materials to use, showing maps and distances, and citing amenities along the trail such as benches.
“You use the age-friendly lens to make determinations,” Arnason explained.
Even though the strategy has been approved, the work of the task force isn’t done.
It monitors projects through the various Township departments, offering input.
The staff provide feedback on elements of the plans as they are implemented and most of all the Township receives feedback from the public.
The local strategies were inspired by a global initiative. The World Health Organization (WHO) launched the Global Age-Friendly Cities Project in 2006, in recognition that the population is aging and more people are living longer impacts a wide range of municipal policies, processes, programs, and infrastructure.
Canada joined the global effort in 2007, launching the Age-Friendly Communities initiative. The Township was one of the early municipalities to create a plan.
A good indicator that this kind of planning matters – others are realizing the need for change.
“Other levels of government are now looking at this, and saying we want to have broader frameworks that will be implemented in other communities,” Arnason noted.
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