Acceptable, affordable housing key to healthy aging

Sunday, April 9, 2017

As housing strategies continue to be tested across Ontario, it is encouraging to see communities driven by a common question: What is required to support quality of life and optimize people’s health, participation and security as they age?

An age-friendly community is one in which policies, services and physical spaces are designed for people of all ages to live in a secure, accessible environment. Age-friendly communities contribute to good health and allow people to participate fully in society throughout their lifetime.

In 2007, the World Health Organization identified eight aspects, or ‘dimensions,’ of community life that overlap and interact to directly affect older adults. These dimensions consider aspects of the physical environment (i.e. outdoor spaces and public buildings, housing and transportation), social environment (i.e. social participation, respect and social inclusion and civic participation and employment), as well dimensions of personal well-being (i.e. communication and information and community support and health services).

Niagara is one of many communities in Ontario working with local politicians, municipal staff, community service providers and citizens to identify ways in which they can strengthen the age-friendliness of their community. Where people choose to live and the accessibility of their dwelling impacts many quality of life factors, such as personal health, access to services and engagement in social and civic life. Therefore, it is not surprising that for many older adults one of the top priorities is to be able to age in-place. To do so, they require access to services to help them stay in their home. When a move to a supportive environment is necessary, having access to a wide range of affordable and accessible housing options enables people to still remain in their community.

It is interesting to see how communities are starting to proactively address the opportunity to support older adults who are aging in-place. Snow Angels programs are popping up in many locales, to help older adults and others with winter shovelling by matching them with a student or community volunteer. Ways are being tested out, to bring social and health services into apartment buildings where large numbers of older adults reside, thereby reducing pressure on long-term care or other housing providers.

Older adults themselves are identifying and planning for how they want to live. This leads to models such as co-housing, for which four or five individuals share a kitchen and common room, and have independent living spaces. Home sharing is another innovative model, where a homeowner takes in a boarder, and in exchange for reduced rental fees, the boarder agrees to provide household services such as gardening, housekeeping, grass cutting and pet care.

Go to to learn more about work being done to strengthen Niagara as an age-friendly community, including the Niagara Aging Strategy and Action Plan.

— Sarah Webster is senior knowledge broker with Niagara Connects and, as well as the Ontario Age-Friendly Community Outreach Initiative.

Source: St. Catharines Standard