For the past year the Hamilton Council on Aging has been working in partnership with the City of Hamilton, Seniors Advisory Committee to Council and other community partners to develop a plan that would Build A More Age-Friendly Hamilton.
The plan is almost completed.
The draft plan will be presented to the Emergency and Community Services Committee of City Council on September 22 and to City Council on September 24, at the last meeting before Council adjourns for the October 27 Municipal Election.
In many ways this has been a dream project. It has brought together many wonderful people, highly committed to creating a more inclusive, equitable and age-friendly city. They have stepped up, contributed and collaborated in the development of the ideas. The City has been an excellent partner, and there are countless ways in which the City is already moving towards this goal. City staff has been open and receptive to the ideas brought presented to them and have contributed their own.
This is not to say that with the approval of the plan that life will improve overnight. The biggest constraint is resources. Hamilton is not flush with funds and the provincial and federal governments are not easing the infrastructure deficit – one of the city’s biggest fiscal challenge- in any substantive way. There is some resistance to investments in public transit, investments that would benefit older adults who no longer can or want to drive. Some recommendations depend on the provincial and federal governments to take action, to work differently or invest in Hamilton.
However there are a number of small changes coming that may make a big difference to many people. Watch for them.
We have all come to the conclusion that one of the most important things we can do to improve the aging experience is to communicate more effectively. This means two main things. First, making sure people know where to find information and that it is simple to remember: a “trusted source” that is the gateway to all that we need to know. Fortunately that source is in place, although not well publicized. Community Information Hamilton provides information on all manner of things through their website (informationhamilton.ca) or when you call them at 905-528-0104 or 211. Improving awareness of this information source will be an important recommendation made in the plan.
The second aspect of communication is about personal connection. Do you know that Hamilton Public Libraries not only have free books, DVDs etc. for our use, but are also a great source of information? If you want to find out what is available for you in Hamilton, ask your local librarian. While there are many other sources, including community information organizations, only the libraries blanket the city.
The libraries also provide space and opportunities for you to connect with each other – and it is free. For example, Sherwood Library is hosting a conversation “Let’s talk about successful aging” this August (check their summer calendar). This is a terrific initiative and only one of many hosted by the libraries. Their community outreach efforts serve as an example of how Hamilton is already on its way to becoming more age-friendly.
The recommendations in the report focus on all aspects of building an age-friendly Hamilton, from housing to transit to recreation and social inclusion. It will be a living document, which means it will continue to be updated and taken out to the community. This is not a project for the city government alone, it is for all of us to create together.
Please check in with the Hamilton Council on Aging website to learn when you will have an opportunity to see this plan, or follow us on Facebook or twitter (@AFH_Hub) to keep updated.
Dr. Denise O’Connor is a public policy analyst with an expertise in age-friendly cities, health systems and community engagement. She has been working as a consultant with the Hamilton Council on Aging to help make Hamilton more age-friendly.