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.
Older adults, organizations, and the community must understand the needs of all citizens and ensure communication and sharing of information. Aspects of an informed society include:
- Continually consults older adults regarding their needs and interests
- Ensures older adults are provided with the information they need to be included and engaged
- Shares information and provides appropriate training for staff members, volunteers, and decision makers at all levels within an organization
- Shares information about older adults within the community
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 community’s strengths and areas for improvement.
Keep learning about older adults
How do you keep current on the changing needs preferences of older adults?
- Conduct needs assessments, questionnaires, or surveys targeting older adults including those you are currently connected to and those you are not
- Host community consultations such as a focus group of older adults
- Get to know the older adults in your community by talking with them formally and/or informally
- Create a diverse senior advisory group and work closely with them
How do you ensure you are meeting the needs and preferences of older adults and addressing gaps in services?
- Track and regularly review participation rates
- Keep abreast of academic studies/research related to older adults
- Include older adults in strategic planning to determine the direction of the organization/community
- Keep up with current affairs to better understand the issues and competing interests of older adults
- e.g. listen to speeches and comments made by local and provincial politicians
- Connect with local resident associations, business improvement associations, and community service clubs to better understand issues related to older adults
- Network with business commerce, city groups, and online networking groups to learn about local and provincial strategies and initiatives
- Develop ways for people to voice concerns and provide feedback (e.g. complaint box, focus groups, program summaries, evaluations)
- Involve older adults in the development of educational resources
- Make information on designated parking for people with disabilities easily available
Communicate with older adults who are existing or potential participants/customers/clients
How do you share information with older adults about programs, supports, strategies and initiatives?
- Ensure older adults are directed to the right services (i.e. use a gatekeeper or referral process)
- Post notices and advertisements in community newsletters or newspapers
- Advertise in churches, community centres, pharmacies, grocery stores, local libraries, and social media
- Ensure professionals working with older adults are aware of your programs/services
- Do presentations for groups of older adults (e.g. senior centres, Probus clubs etc. …)
- Inform older adults about volunteer and employment opportunities
How do you or your organization’s make accommodations for older adults?
- Refer to the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act for ways to talk about accessibility and accommodations
- Provide information on where to go to ask questions about accessibility and accommodations
- e.g. A telephone line to ask questions or symbols on written materials indicating accommodations can be made
- Ensure information about accessibility is located in easy to reach places within and outside your organization
- Use a variety of methods of communication (e.g. face to face, phone, internet, radio, print)
- Ensure the format can be read by older adults (e.g. larger font sizes)
- Post information where people conduct daily activities such as pharmacies, grocery stores, or doctor’s offices
- Develop a community services information hotline (e.g. Halton Region’s 211)
- Create methods to encourage older adults or persons with disabilities to identify accommodation requirements ahead of time
- e.g. Space on forms, phone numbers to call to receive accessibility information
- For additional information visit National Educational Association of Disabled Students (NEADS)
How do you share information with older adults who are socially isolated?
- Local television
- Personal visits
- Places of worship
- Service workers
- Social media
Share knowledge about older adults with the people you work with
How do you ensure your colleagues and co-workers are well-informed about the unique needs of older adults?
- Communicate with individuals you work with through:
- Newsletters attached to paychecks
- Share minutes of staff meetings
- In services and workshops
- Team meetings
What training opportunities are you providing to ensure staff/volunteers are qualified and/or certified to effectively meet the needs of older adults?
- Contact relevant community organization (e.g. Alzheimer Society, Heart and Stroke Foundation, Parkinson’s Society). Many of these training sessions are free or available at a nominal cost. These training sessions can cover topics such as:
- Tips for communicating effectively with older adults
- Creating barrier free design
- Sensitivity and awareness training
- Emergency plans to ensure the safety of older adults
- Provide staff and volunteers with the appropriate orientation and continuing educational sessions
- Recognize staff and volunteers who attend orientation and training sessions
- Use older adults as a resource for training staff/volunteers
- Develop plans that integrate new knowledge/learning into day-to-day practice
- Offer mentoring programs, lunch and learn series, training aids, and/or on-site consultations
Communicate with the greater community
What do you do to ensure the public has relevant information about programs, events, and services offered for older adults?
- Assess how well your communication methods reach out to the general public
- Consider public forums, sponsoring community events, or social media
- Use a range of different ways to share the same information
- Do presentations for groups of citizens (e.g. rotary club, church groups etc.)
How do you ensure that information portrays positive attitudes and images of older adults?
- Enlist local press to do a story on a local senior, your age-friendly program, or a special event
- Host a volunteer recognition night with media coverage
- Collect stories of older adults through newspaper clippings and/or invite older adults to share their personal experiences with others – both the successes and struggles of older adults
- Use positive language when talking to and about older adults (i.e. person first language, non-offensive)
- Promote the positive qualities of aging
- Ensure media materials such as pamphlets, and advertisements portray older adults in a positive manner
- Use seniors in marketing and advertising campaigns
- Implement and/or support educational and intergenerational programs to help younger people understand aging and importance of treating elders with respect
- Start a ‘community memories’ program in a local museum
See a working example of an informed society witin the dementia context.