Editorial: Flip 2013 and you have 2031 – and this target year for the province’s Places to Grow legislation is now just 18 years off. If things go as projected, Guelph will have a population of 175,000 by then, and about one-third of them will be 55 and older. The number of city residents 85 and older is set to quadruple in the next couple of decades.
Fortunately, the city isn’t standing still when it comes to preparing for this demographic shift, which will be mirrored across the province.
Mayor Karen Farbridge made an interesting observation last month about the city’s older adult strategy, which was forged during 2012 and has been endorsed in principle by city council. She said changes made to help the city’s older citizens can also help people of various ages with disabilities, as well as children. Considering that some of the 65 recommendations in the older adult strategy report deal with such things as identifying gaps and barriers to accessibility, including matters related to sidewalks and curb cuts, it’s easy to see there’s truth in the mayor’s observation.
The older adult strategy report seems to really cover the waterfront in terms of its recommendations, but it’s not a scattergun approach. It uses a framework consistent with the World Health Organization’s thinking on the subject of aging populations, a trend that’s certainly not confined to Guelph or Ontario or Canada. The WHO says the areas important to consider when it comes to “age-friendliness” are: outdoor spaces and buildings, transportation, housing, social participation, respect and social inclusion, civic participation and employment, communication and information, community supports and health support.
One noteworthy aspect of the report is its urging a broadening of the scope of the city’s Snow Angels program to serve more older adults. Currently, city hall is paying the Volunteer Centre of Guelph/Wellington until at least 2014 to run this program, which uses volunteers to remove dense snow piles at the end of driveways for low-income residents unable to do it themselves. The older adult strategy report goes so far as to suggest the city could look at extending the mandate of the Snow Angels program to provide home maintenance help and support.
It’s all food for a lot of thought, as each of us continues along the path of getting older.