Aging Without Boundaries: Community participation is ageless!

Image: Aging Without Boundaries: Community participation is ageless!

Age Friendly Communities – No invitation necessary!

By: Elizabeth Macnab, Executive Director, Ontario Society of Senior Citizens Organizations/La Société des Organisations des Citoyens Aînés de l’Ontario

Through the World Health Organization (WHO), cities worldwide have asked seniors to identify the key elements needed for cities (and communities) to successfully support healthy aging. It has been concluded that a community that works for seniors works for everyone!

As our population continues to age and the number of seniors living in our communities continues to increase, it is more important than ever to establish communities and resources that support seniors and their activities.

I became involved with Ontario Society for Senior Citizens Organizations (OSSCO) in 2009 through a provincial educational forum in Windsor. This program was jointly organized by OSSCO’s registered charity and the Ontario Seniors Secretariat, to educate communities on joining the Age Friendly Communities movement.

The Age Friendly Communities movement works to prepare community’s for successful aging today and in generations to follow. It is a movement that proves seniors can still be active contributors to society as they age and retire. As OSSCO member John Fedyna and founder of Richmond Springs Resort, has told me many times, “we have to think about ‘unretirement’ living, and forget about the word ‘senior’.” In his early 80s, John is bringing his vision of an ‘unretirement’ community to life.

John is not alone. If you look around your community you will find many elderly persons involved in their neighbourhoods. We should be recognizing these seniors in the community as positive contributors with a magnitude of knowledge, insight, wisdom and experience to offer. Rather than focusing on the negative aspects of aging, such as decline in physical and cognitive health and ability, we should focus our attention on the positives, and recognize seniors for helping to shape our communities into the places they are today. There is a lot that we can learn from seniors, and their participation in our communities should be welcomed and appreciated, rather than deterred.

Seniority is a great place to be – seniors have earned their place in society. They've managed families and finances, dealt with sorrow and success, handled the challenges of physical or cognitive change. Their life experiences have shaped them into who they are. They finally have an opportunity to do what they want, how they want, when they want and to improve the future for their peers, their elders, their children and grandchildren. Together, seniors make our communities great for themselves as well as the generations to follow. There is no invitation needed to participate - they just do it.

Elizabeth Macnab is Executive Director, Ontario Society of Senior Citizens’ Organizations (OSSCO). For the past 14 years Elizabeth has focused on the wellbeing of seniors by raising awareness and understanding of issues affecting an aging population as is found in one of her co-authored reports Shifting the Paradigm of Ageism: Strategies for Positive Active Aging. Under Elizabeth’s leadership, OSSCO has shaped public policy with the following outcomes: developing tools to measure quality of life for seniors; changes to driving tests for adults 80+, feedback into the Law Commission of Ontario on Powers of Care and Property as well as the recent Empowering Homecare Patients Act. She has also contributed to the evolution and development of the 211Ontario system. As a member of the Human Resources Professional Association, Elizabeth leads bi-monthly employment networking groups for older adults seeking employment.