Age Friendly Communities was developed by the Murray Alzheimer Research and Education Program (now based at Schlegel-UW Research Institute for Aging) and community partners.
The environment is comprised of a supportive social environment and an easily accessible built environment. An enabling and supportive environment ensures:
- Access to flexible programs, services and supports
- The social environment promotes meaningful participation, including those who are socially isolated
- The social environment fosters safety and security, respects dignity of choice and reduces the risk of mistreatment, abuse, and neglect
- The physical environment meets or exceeds current accessibility standards and older adults can safely access and maneuver within build environments
Keep the five guiding principles in mind as you have your community conversations. The guiding principles are important to consider when you are identifying your communities strengths and areas for improvement.
How do you ensure access to programs, services, and supports meet the needs and preferences of older adults?
What programs, services, and supports for older adults currently exist? Where are the gaps?
- Look at what has already been done by agencies such as the Local Health Integration Networks (LHIN), local universities, Regional Geriatric Programs, Regions/Cities/Municipalities (service maps, priority setting exercises, gap analysis, and environmental scans)
- Complete a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis of your community
- Examine how seniors move around the community. Determine if your services are located close to other services such as housing, shopping, health, community support services etc…
- Look at programs to help people stay in their own home. Services such as sidewalk clearing, home maintenance, transportation, meal delivery and in-home exercise programs
- Ensure respite programs (day, in-home, and overnight) are available
- Support services offered to promote, restore, and manage health issues and concerns related to aging (e.g., vision care, dental care etc...)
How do you accommodate the individual’s needs in programs, services, or events?
- Ensure a wide variety of services are available and can adapt to the changing needs of older adults
- Make sure community support programs are available to meet the needs of socially isolated older adults (e.g. friendly visitor programs)
- Consider supports provided that enable older adults to access services (e.g. out-reach/home services, transportation options between services/locations, delivery services)
- Talk to older adults about the accessibility of your programs, services, or supports
- Determine if transportation for medical, social, and other appointments is available within the community and to neighbouring areas (both rural and urban)
- Examine service policies and procedures for flexibility and responsiveness
- Consider how individual requests are received/acted upon
How do policies and practices respect the rights and choices of older adults?
- Include older adults in the development of policies and practices
- Respect preferences and choices (e.g. right to live at a chosen location with risk)
- Avoid overprotecting older adults
- Put in place policies that ensure freedom of choice
- Ensure that older adults can receive appropriate employment benefits
What methods, programs, and services are in place to support or subsidize older adults with limited incomes?
- Offer discounts or other incentives for older adults
- Ensure staff is aware of tax credits and other available financial support and assist older adults to access supports (e.g. make necessary contacts, fill out forms etc…)
- Use funding agencies such as Ontario LHINs, New Horizons, Trillium, Ontario March of Dimes (home and vehicle modifications), Veteran Affairs, and Veteran Independence Programs
- Consider government or agency subsidy such as Canadian Mortgage Housing and Corporation (CMHC), Assistive Devices Programs
- Allow attendants or supporters of persons with disabilities to participate free or at a discounted rate
- Connect with other services clubs that provide financial support (e.g. Legion, Rotary Club, Lions Club)
- Subsidize program costs through fundraising
Create a safe and secure social environment
How do you make the environment welcoming and comfortable?
- Unlock front doors to provide easy access
- Have a person to greet individuals as they enter
- Have a person answering phones rather than an automated system
- Included appropriate décor within the space and keep the location well maintained
- Promote a scent-free environment and indicate that the space or event is scent-free
- Let them know support is available and create opportunities for them to ask for and receive help
How do your programs, supports, events, and services promote participation that is meaningful to older adults?
- Provide a variety of opportunities/options for people to engage within their community throughout the lifespan (e.g. a variety of housing and transportation options, various volunteer positions)
- Ensure community support services are in place to meet the needs of older adults who are socially isolated
- Deliver products and services to the homes of older adults
- Identify and address barriers preventing access or participation
- Provide outreach services including delivery services (groceries, medication) and online options
- Promote or implement telephone support, buddy systems, and/or sharing of transportation
- Allow opportunities to develop personal skills
- Provide volunteer positions for older adults, providing an opportunity to give back to the organization and community
What programs or services do you provide that offer opportunity for older adults to interact with others?
- Consider informal settings such as coffee areas, mall walking, churches, legions, senior centers
- Offer day outings and bus trips
- Have older adults write a column in the local newspaper
- Hold a seniors day or another initiative to encourage meaningful participation of older adults
- Offer opportunities for older adults who are isolated to be involved in community events
- Contact other agencies to get tips on how to get older adults more involved
How does the environment promote and support social participation?
- Provide programs and spaces where older adults can meet with others (e.g. drop-in centers, congregate dining halls, round tables in lounge areas)
- Ensure lobby areas have opportunities for people to interact
- Offer recreation and leisure opportunities
What programs, resources, and policies are in place to help prevent and respond to abuse, crime, or scams?
- Implement protocols to prevent and respond to abuse or offensive behaviours
- Provide information and education on elder abuse prevention and how to respond to elder abuse
- Visit the Government of Ontario Information on Elder Abuse - the types of abuse, warning signs etc...
- Learn more from the Elder Abuse Ontario
- Implement strategies that prevent loitering or misbehaviours in public settings
- Display information that promotes safety and positive treatment of others
- Develop networks to let people know about scams/elder abuse such as the Halton Seniors and Law Enforcement Together (SALT) program and Halton Elder Abuse Prevention Committee
- Inform the public about strategies to protect against scams through bulletins, emails etc…
- Introduce a fraud education program in the community
Create a safe and secure physical environment
Meet or exceed accessibility standards and practices
What actions ensure that your organization/community is physically accessible to older adults?
- Recruit older adults to identify barriers and develop solutions to improve access to your environment
- Complete a walkthrough of your environment using one of the many checklists available
- Look at some of the information available on walkability via Canada Walks
How do you use resources available to assist your organization/community in meeting legislated accessibility standards?
- Check out The Path to 2025 Ontario's Accessibility Action Plan
- Use barrier-free design features (see Planning for Barrier-Free Municipalities: A Handbook and Self-Assessment Tool)
- Consider using an architect, engineer, planner, or consultant experienced in barrier-free design
- Identify policies, procedures or future planning strategies related to accessibility standards
- Contact private companies that help organizations meet accessibility standards
Ensure access to buildings/spaces is accessible and safe
How do older adults travel to and from programs/services?
- Ensure public transit is convenient, coordinated, and allows older adults to request stops within the route when safe to do so
- Provide information on transportation options (e.g. public transit, volunteer transportation programs, taxis, accessible transportation) in a variety of ways to help older adults access services easily
- Provide accessible vehicles when needed (lowered floors, hand railings, low steps, wide/high seats)
- Provide transportation services within the community, between neighbouring communities and extend service to rural areas
- Ensure costs of transit services are displayed and consistent
- Provide dedicated transit services such as shuttle vans for shopping, trips, special events etc…
- Display appropriate signage on all vehicles transporting persons with disabilities
- Clearly identify and ensure that priority seating is available and enforced
How safe and accessible are parking areas and drop-off zones?
- Ensure parking is maintained, affordable, and near building entrances, consider having a drop-off zone
- Position designated parking for persons with disabilities in a variety of easy to reach locations
- Install a two-way communication system for support
- Ensure there are safe, clearly marked pedestrian routes from the parking area to the building entrance
- Ensure lighting in the parking lot is adequate for all individuals, including those with vision impairments
- Supply adequate wheelchair parking spots for the group that you serve (may exceed minimal standards)
- Apply an efficient snow removal program and salt walkways to prevent slipping
- Trim hedges regularly to ensure the safety of pathways
- Maintain smooth surfaces to prevent falling and allow easy access by those in wheelchairs
How do you ensure that people can move safely and easily outside of building/spaces?
- Build curb cuts with appropriate slopes and pitch
- Provide ramps made with non-slip surfaces
- Provide doors that are easy to locate and use (i.e. appropriate width, easy-to-find automatic open buttons)
- Use mats that are level with the ground and do not create a tripping hazard
- Ensure canopies and other shelters have adequate headroom
- Supply handrails and supportive devices (e.g. ramps, benches, chairs etc…)
- Ensure sufficient seating is located in convenient locations for individuals to rest
- Use seats with armrests to support sitting and standing, ensure chairs are at an appropriate height (not too low) and are easy to get in and out of
What emergency and evacuation procedures are in place to ensure the safety and security of persons?
- Develop an evacuation plan for all staff/clients at each location. Include information about accommodations for persons with disabilities
- Provide older adults with information to help them to prepare for emergencies/evacuations
- Ensure main exit routes are easily marked and accessible
- Use fire alarms that have both visual and audible signals
- Ensure fire exit doors are easily distinguishable from other doors
- Ensure fire hose cabinets and extinguishers contrast with surroundings (colour, texture etc…)
How do you ensure indoor and outside signage assists people to find their way?
- Use signage for directions/information outside and within the building
- Ensure signs are easy to read and meet user needs (e.g. large fonts, dark lettering on a light background, tactile lettering for touch reading)
- Place signs to meet user needs (eye level for persons using wheelchairs, within reach for persons with vision disabilities, located in prominent places such as floor grading changes)
- Use the International Symbol of Accessibility
- Use universal hearing disability symbols where equipment is available (e.g. TTY)
- Apply appropriate pictograms wherever possible (e.g. washroom doors)
Ensure people are able to access and use buildings/spaces safely
How do you ensure easy flow/movement within buildings?
- Provide information to guide individuals (help desks, telephones and/or signage upon entering)
- Ensure there is always a person nearby to assist
- Provide public telephones, coat racks, and display shelves that are accessible and usable by patrons with various disabilities (e.g. wheelchair users, persons with low vision or hearing loss)
- Use appropriate signage to guide people to and within the building
How can people get assistance if needed?
- Ensure proper signage for assistance or emergency areas
- Provide electronic buttons or bells are accessible for all people to call for help
- Provide a telephone number for people to call ahead for special assistance requests
- Communicate what assistance you are able to provide through a variety of methods (telephone, print, etc…)
How does the design of the space cater to the needs of older adults?
- Ensure spaces are accessible and safe (i.e. equipped with ramps, accessible elevator, railings etc…)
- Check regularly for obstructions, protruding objects or tripping hazards
- Clearly, mark accessible routes with a bright colour; use a cane-detectable floor finish or a guard
- Make sure amenities such as telephones, reception areas, and drinking fountains are available and easily accessed by all individuals, including people with disabilities
- Develop a regular maintenance schedule and process to follow up on areas that need improvement
- Ensure walls, ramps and staircases have a smooth, non-glossy and non-abrasive finishes
- Use a door colour that contrasts with the surrounding walls
- Use floor finishes that are non-slip in both wet and dry conditions
- Ensure changes in flooring surfaces are well marked (e.g. carpet to tile)
- Provide adequate chairs and benches that have armrests, are stable and an appropriate height
- Provide doorways, hallways, waiting areas, and serving aisles that are wide enough in all areas
- Provide counters at an appropriate height for all individuals, including those who use mobility devices such as wheelchairs, scooters
- Limit the size and location of mirrors to lessen confusion
- Ensure washrooms meet appropriate accessibility standards (including those for wheelchairs and scooters) and are cleaned, maintained, and located on every floor
- Provide ‘single access’ and gender-neutral washrooms, as well as ‘family washrooms’
- Ensure elevators are accessible and meet the standards and needs of older adults. Consider the following:
- Reaching poles to push buttons
- Level platform
- Width/depth of the elevator can accommodate wheelchairs, scooters and/or strollers
- The timing of doors opening and closing
- Braille signage
- Controls can easily be reached
- Two-way emergency call system or telephone provided
- Visual and audible signals that announce floors and the direction of the elevator
- Provide carpeted floors which have a firm and dense construction on which individuals can easily walk
- Ensure floor grading is as level as possible, without steep and inconsistent declines. Use appropriate signage for any significant changes in floor grading