Hamilton's age-friendly strategy must address diverse senior communities, say committee

Hamilton’s age-friendly strategy must address diverse senior communities, say committee members

Photo: Members of the city’s senior advisory committee urged the city’s age-friendly strategy document be updated to focus on Hamilton’s diverse community. It is being being reviewed for 2020 to 2025. – Kevin Werner/Torstar/file

Hamilton’s groundbreaking age-friendly strategy must incorporate ideas to help the city’s diverse community, said a member of the senior advisory’s committee.

Carolann Fernandes told Margaret Denton, vice chair of the Hamilton council on aging, that as the plan is renewed for another five years from 2020 to 2025, its top priority should be to help seniors who are from other countries.

“You are imposing uniformity, which doesn’t work,” said Fernandes, who is from India. “There are seniors that are really, really suffering, really isolated.”

She said seniors who are from the diverse community are “living on islands doing their own thing. We pay taxes, we feel we are entitled.”

Hamilton was one of the first communities in Ontario to join the World Health Organization’s Global Age-Friendly Cities Project. There are now over 900 communities in Canada that have a plan.

Fernandes, though, said the strategy doesn’t incorporate the needs of seniors who are diverse.

“There is something missing,” she said.

Other advisory committee members recommended the next stage of the strategy focus on improving communication and information to seniors in both digital and paper forms, and expanding transportation needs.

Denton acknowledged as the groups update the strategy for the next five years, they want to reach out to the city’s diverse communities, including the LGBTQ+ and Indigenous groups.

“We want to do a better job of addressing needs,” she said.

The organization hosted an April symposium about the strategy that attracted about 300 participants. Individuals can also take an online survey at www.agefriendlyhamilton.ca, and there will be meetings with stakeholder groups over the next few weeks.

Denton said an updated plan on the strategy is scheduled to be ready for council’s review either this fall or early winter.

Hamilton’s retiree population is expected to balloon over the next few decades. The first wave of the baby boom generation — those born between the end of the Second World War and the mid-1960s — is hitting retirement age.

According to the 2011 census, Hamilton is home to 81,575 people over the age of 65, which is about 16 per cent of the city’s population. The federal government predicts Hamilton’s senior population will grow by 93 per cent by 2033.

At the same time people in the 19 to 44 age group will shrink during the same period.

Source: The Hamilton Spectator