A message from HCoA’s new President

As I enter my term as President of the Board of Directors of the Hamilton Council on Aging (HCoA) I am excited about the Council’s many accomplishments and where the Council is headed as an organization. In just short eight years since it was established, the Council has made tremendous progress as it strives to make a difference in the lives of older adults and contributes to their well-being.

2014 has been a significant year for the Council as it continues its partnership with the City of Hamilton, and community partners to develop a Plan for an Age Friendly Hamilton and we are extremely pleased to report that on September 24, 2014, Hamilton City Council approved the recommendations contained in the plan, bringing to fruition much of what the Council has work on for the past several years, work that was begun by Dr. Margaret Denton, Dr. Carolyn Rosenthal, and the Council’s founding Board of Directors.

A Plan for an Age Friendly Hamilton is significant because it reflects “the voices” – ideas, perceptions, and needs of older adults and key stakeholders of greater Hamilton. It identifies strengths, opportunities and recommendations to move Hamilton further along to become an age-friendly city.

Through all of its work, the Council is challenged to maintain focus on its four strategic priorities that guide its work – prevention of abuse of older persons; increasing access to programs and support services for older adults from diverse communities; tackling poverty among seniors; and creating an age-friendly city, while remaining financially sound. The Council will continue to identify funding opportunities, partnerships and collaborations that will allow it to contribute to the well-being of older adults.

The Council endeavours to remain true to its mission and vision by engaging older adults in all aspects of its work and reaching out to those that are hardest to reach.

The Council, as a small not-for-profit organization, has a “working” Board of Directors who devote countless hours to its work. I feel encouraged to be working alongside these many talented, skilled, committed and dedicated individuals towards a common goal.

I look forward to continuing to work with fellow Board members, partners, and volunteers as the Council continues its journey to an Age Friendly City for all ages.

With the aging of the Canadian population, the Council must also reach out to everyone in our community who has an interest in the wellbeing of seniors. Please send us your thoughts about the challenges and opportunities ahead to make Hamilton an age-friendly place to live.

Monica Quinlan

President, HCoA Board of Directors

The Bottom Line of Aging

When I took on a marketing internship with the Hamilton Council on Aging two years ago, “age-friendly” was the buzz phrase du jour. I’d just completed Sheridan College’s Corporate Communications program, and understood very well that as our population aged, our strategies and tactics around communicating with older audiences needed to be altered appropriately, too. Businesses of all kinds, from travel agencies to yogurt, were attempting to make aging an attractive, healthy, fun experience, and hoping no doubt to monetize it as well. While the marketing world often follows the money, these businesses were catching on to the fact that if their services didn’t at least appear to be age-friendly, they weren’t going to profit from this significant demographic shift.

Many industries that had ignored seniors for so long were suddenly trying to appeal to older age groups, and a sort of “age-washing” of ad campaigns followed, as business owners signed on in droves for seminars meant to help make their products and services age-friendly.

The most effective marketing, of course, is that which works in good faith to build respectful relationships with two-way communication at the core. In other words, it’s about more than just adding a widget to a website that bumps up the text size, or featuring a good looking grey-haired woman on a granola bar box. Great marketing and communications needed to be about valuing and respecting experiences of aging. And, as I learned, valuing and respecting experiences of aging is of benefit to all of us. And that just makes good business sense.

As organizations such as the Hamilton Council on Aging work to educate, advocate, and improve experiences of aging, often part of that work includes envisioning and working toward more age-friendly services, including businesses that understand how to relate to the changing needs of their markets. Many resources on HCoA’s website point to strategies for serving seniors better – things like allocating adequate staff time and care with senior clients, and ensuring that the physical layout of a store allows for shoppers with reduced mobility to access it with ease. Also of importance is training the marketing world to not revert to stereotypes by reinforcing incorrect perceptions of aging in communications efforts. It makes good business sense because it’s based simply on respect. And businesses that take care to improve services for an aging population also help improve experiences for pregnant women and those with young children, people with limited hearing or sight, or those experiencing reduced mobility due to injury. In other words, all of us.

People in Canada are living longer, enjoying better health later in life, and thanks in part to organizations such as Hamilton Council on Aging, they are able to participate more fully and meaningfully in society. That means they’re savvier and smarter, too, when it comes to using the Internet, viewing advertisements, and making decisions about how they spend money. If marketing sticks to the model of engaging with its audience and listening carefully, it’s just a matter of time before it catches up.


Jenny Gladish works in communications for CoBALT Connects, a non-profit arts organization. She got her start in communications through an internship with the Hamilton Council on Aging, and is now a member of its communications subcommittee.

Building a Plan to Build a More Age-Friendly Hamilton

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.








What is Hamilton Third Age Learning?

Hamilton Third Age Learning

  • What is a hash tag?
  • Is there a difference in male and female brains?
  • Need to keep up with technology?
  • What happened in the financial crisis of 2008?
  • Why does Canada have home grown terrorists?
  • What is the future of healthcare?
  • What is the latest research on stem cells?


These are a few of the discussions in the new HTAL (Hamilton Third Age Learning) program.


The Third Age Learning Movement was established in France in 1973. It spread rapidly throughout Europe and in the UK and first arrived in Canada in Sherbrook, PQ in 1975.

 Worldwide there are now many organizations offering learning opportunities for older, often retired people (third age). Venues include universities, community organizations and independent groups.

 According to Catalyst, The Canadian Network for ThirdAge Learning, there are now over 50 third age learning groups of various kinds in Canada, coast to coast.

 Well-established, successful programs have been established in Guelph and Kitchener for over 25 years and most recently Burlington launched their program two years ago.

New to Hamilton:

The good news is that Third Age Learning has begun in Hamilton.

With the second largest number of older adults in the Province and a city committed to becoming an Age Friendly City the time is right for this exciting movement to take hold in Hamilton. 


Hamilton Third Age Program (HTAL) was launched in 2013 with a lecture series for retired and semi- retired persons who share an interest in lifelong learning and understanding contemporary issues.

Our theme: “How do we begin to understand the 21st century?” Our world is a very complex and confusing place where change is happening at an ever-faster pace. The highly qualified speakers cover a range of topics providing insights into this century’s problems and possibilities.

The program is intellectually stimulating and engaging. As well, it provides an opportunity for participants to socialize.


The lecture series is offered at the McMaster Innovation Park on 175 Longwood Avenue. This is a spacious and bright location which highlights works of local artists.


The 6 lecture series is offered in the spring and fall on Friday mornings, 10am to noon.


45 minute lecture, coffee break followed by a lively question and answer period.


Upcoming: fall 2014:

  • Jackie Maxwell Artistic director of the Shaw festival: the important role of theater in contemporary life.
  • Dr. Gordon McBean director of the Western University center for environment and sustainability: Global climate change and how Canadians can address the issue.
  • Dr. Laurel Trainer Professor of Psychology at Mcmaster: children learn through exposure to music and how it shapes behavior.
  • Dr. Ron Dielbert of the University of Toronto: the implications of the Snowden revelations.
  • David Mulroney former Canadian ambassador to china: Chinas’ changing character and the challenges it poses for Canada.
  • Francesca Grosso of Grosso McCarthy Toronto: tips and advice on navigating Ontario’s changing health care system.



The price of the 6-lecture package is $50.00 (includes free parking) or if you prefer to come to a lecture of your choice, there are tickets (depending on available seating) at the door for $10.00


How to register:

Registration has currently sold out for the fall 2014 series. Registration and information for 2015 spring lectures:

go to www.htal.ca


Sharron Johnson is a member of the Board of Directors for Hamilton Third Age Learning.






HCoA – The Beginnings

One day, about 10 years ago, Margaret Denton and Anju Joshi, my colleagues in Gerontological Studies at McMaster University, suggested we have lunch. They knew about the highly successful Council on Aging in Ottawa and thought Hamilton would benefit from one. Since I was newly retired, they thought I might be interested in heading up an initiative to pursue this idea. I agreed and HCOA began to dominate my life for the next 8 years!

Why did we think Hamilton needed a Council on Aging? Although there were other organizations in the city that served older adults as part of their mandate, no organization focused solely on older adults or had a mandate to advocate and educate on their behalf. As teachers and researchers in the field of aging, we knew that the aging of the population, coupled with the aging of the postwar baby boom, meant there were significant age-related issues that were growing in urgency and that needed to be addressed at both the individual level and at the level of social policy. We thought that having an organization dedicated to advocating for older adults would help ensure that when broader issues – such as health, transportation, social participation, housing, or income security/poverty – were being discussed and addressed, the particular needs and interests of older adults would always be raised for consideration.

Our first step was forming a working group. We brought together individuals from different areas of activity who had some involvement with aging issues and older adults. Although people sat at the table as individuals rather than as representatives of organizations, we had people from the Social Planning and Research Council of Hamilton, Catholic Family Services, McMaster University, the YWCA, St. Peter’s Hospital and others.

We met over a number of months to discuss why we thought establishing a Council of Aging in Hamilton would be a good idea, how we thought it should function, who should be included in our ongoing discussions. There were times we felt we were talking a lot but not getting very far, but then members of our group who had more experience in forming new organizations reassured us that taking time at the beginning to build strong foundations would pay off in the long run. We grappled with the question of whether board members should represent organizations or simply serve as individuals; ultimately, we decided the latter would best serve the organization. However, we knew from the start that forming partnerships with other organizations in the community would be vital and a key to future success.

Over these months, we had some special sessions led by a skilled facilitator. This process was very helpful in focusing our thoughts, establishing a mission and vision statement, and principles by which we felt we should operate. Our mission statement has guided us over the ensuing years: “The Hamilton Council on Aging exists to educate, advocate and improve life for older adults through a collaborative network of individuals and organizations.”

A key principle of HCOA is that it is senior-driven. HCOA seeks to enhance the quality of life of older adults. The Council was very fortunate in getting support early on from the Hamilton Community Foundation. A small but crucial grant enabled us to hire someone to conduct focus groups with older adults in Hamilton to see what their key priorities were.

One of our members was instrumental in setting up a relationship between HCOA and St. Peter’s Hospital. St. Peter’s gave us space for a real office, a luxury we hadn’t had to this point, and provided other technical and administrative support.

With help donated by Winchie Law, we incorporated and successfully obtained charitable status.

And a key step in our early years was obtaining funding from the United Way of Burlington and Greater Hamilton. We have been receiving funding every year since and are very proud to be a United Way agency.

About a year or two after HCOA began, we became aware of the world-wide Age Friendly Cities movement that emerged from the World Health Organization. We became very excited by the prospect of working to make Hamilton an age friendly city. We were successful in obtaining a grant from the Trillium Foundation that enabled us to hire an executive director and begin to tackle the long-term project to create an age-friendly Hamilton. We are, of course, still very much engaged in this activity. We are now at a very exciting point where we are working with the City of Hamilton and other partners to formulate a Seniors’ Strategy for the City of Hamilton.

HCOA continues to evolve in response to community needs. For example, the Council was fortunate in establishing a close relationship with the former Council on Elder Abuse. The Council joined HCOA and was renamed the Committee on Elder Abuse. This has allowed HCOA to make the issue of elder abuse a central part of its strategic plan. This committee of HCOA is very active and keeps public and government attention focused not only on the problems that exist but also on the avenues address them.

While I finished my second and last term as a member of the HCOA Board in 2013, I continue to follow its activities with interest and pride. I can’t think of a more satisfying way to have spent the past 10 years than to have helped build the Hamilton Council on Aging.


Carolyn J. Rosenthal

Carolyn Rosenthal was a founding member of the Hamilton Council on Aging and currently sits on the Council’s age-friendly committee. She served on its Board of Directors for 6 years, including 3 years as Board Chair. She is Professor Emeritus, Sociology and Gerontology, McMaster University. She was a founding member of Hamilton Third Age Learning and currently serves as that organization’s Vice-President.

The Movement for Age-Friendly Cities and Communities: What is it and where did it begin?

As people and populations age, more and more responsibility has been placed on older adults to optimize their health and well-being through life style choices including exercise, nutrition, tobacco session and weight maintenance. Good advice, but it focuses the ‘blame’ for the’ costs of aging’ on individuals. Too often the responsibility of governments and communities to create social and physical environments that allow optimal aging is neglected.

Population aging raises many questions for policy makers on how to provide for the needs of the aging population and older individuals. In 2002, the World Health Organization (WHO) published Active Aging: A Policy Framework where they defined active aging as “ the process of optimizing opportunities for health, participation and security in order to enhance the quality of life as people age.” This concept informed the Second United Nations World Assembly on Ageing held in Madrid Spain that was attended by over 150 countries worldwide. At this assembly, Governments from around the world adopted an International Plan of Action on Ageing, 2002, to respond to the opportunities and challenges of population ageing and to promote a society for all ages. In Canada this led to Special Senate Committee on Aging report titled Canada’s Aging Population: Seizing the Opportunity (2009) which was followed by a Government of Canada response.

In 2006 the World Health Organization (WHO) introduced the concept of age-friendly cities to refer to “an inclusive and accessible urban environment that promotes active ageing”.   Age-friendliness is defined in terms of a eight domains of life that span the physical and social environment including outdoor spaces and buildings, transportation, housing, communication and information, respect and social inclusion, community support and health services and opportunities for social participation, civic participation and employment. 33 cities from 22 countries world-wide, including 4 from Canada, took up the challenge   to become age-friendly in phase one of the WHO age-friendly cities project. More recently the initiative has been renamed to become age-friendly cities and communities to be inclusive of smaller and rural communities. Public Health Canada has played a leadership role in supporting the age-friendly communities initiative in Canada and   hundreds of Canadian communities are now engaged in age-friendly planning including about 50 in Ontario. The Ontario Seniors Secretariat has published a resource guide to help communities become age-friendly titled Finding the Right Fit Age-Friendly Community Planning that can be found on their website. Municipalities can apply to become part of the WHO Global Age-friendly Cities and Communities Network if they commit to a three step stage process of planning, implementation and evaluation.

The Hamilton Council on Aging began their work to making Hamilton age-friendly in 2008 speaking with older adults across the City of Hamilton on the barriers to age-friendliness in their community and making 92 recommendations to address these barrier . See Hamilton a City for ALL Ages and Hamilton a City for ALL Ages: Three Years On; both reports are available on the HCoA web page. The WHO suggests that the route to an age-friendly community is through the development and implementation of a community wide action plan. The Hamilton Council on Aging and its community partners are currently working with the City of Hamilton on the development of an age-friendly action plan. We are in the process of consulting with older adults across Hamilton as well as key stakeholders in the various domains to ensure that we come up with a set of workable recommendations. A copy of this plan will be available on our website early next fall.

Dr. Margaret Denton is a Professor of Health, Aging & Society at McMaster University and a founding Board Member and Past President of the Hamilton Council on Aging.

Welcome to HCoA

HamiltonCouncil on Aging (HCoA) decided that now is the right time to inaugurate a blog. As president, I want to be first to post on this blog and welcome you to the blog.

HCoA is about seven years old and during that time our projects have enhanced the lives of many seniors. HCoA exists to educate, advocate and improve the life for older adults through a collaborative network of individuals and organizations. A key role for HCoA is to collaborate and create partnerships within the community. Seniors’ engagement is a broad goal of HCoA. We value the participation of older adults and rely heavily on the time and expertise given by older adults in all that we do.

Here are some of the ways in which we are involved:

·        Working in partnership with the City of Hamilton in developing The Older Adult Plan towards establishing Hamilton as an age-friendly city. Focus groups are planned to meet in April and May to obtain public input.

·        Let’s Take the Bus providing information in an effort to increase opportunity for participation and to decrease isolation. An interpreter assists at the workshops in providing translation to the ethnic group in attendance at the workshop.

·        The Committee for Prevention of Abuse of Older Adults a part of the Health and Wellness Expo “Steps to Aging Healthy” on June 23, 2014.

·        Through our Improving Access for Seniors from Diverse Communities programme facilitating workshops for service providers to increase their capacity to serve diverse cultures. Also, working along with CityHousing Hamilton to increase knowledge of and ability to navigate the system of programs and services available to them.

·        Improving Access to Information for Individuals 55+ in Dundas – working with various community partners to develop and install information kiosks in key places throughout Dundas such as the Dundas Public Library. As soon as funding is in place, we will hear more about this project.

·        Let’s Take a Walk project – 35+ senior volunteers set to participate in age-friendly audits of approximately 18 of Hamilton’s Recreational Trails.

I have told you some highlights of our activities that are in progress now. We want to hear from you. You may want to post to this blog (if so, write to us at hcoablog@mail.com). If you would like more information, please check out our website at www.coahamilton.ca.

Mae Radford

President, HCoA

Prior to retirement, Mae was a member of the Senior Leadership Team at VON Hamilton with responsibilities for Community Support Services with a team of 1600 volunteers. Presently, in addition to serving as President of HCoA, Mae is a community leader as Governor on the Joseph Brant Hospital Board, Past President of the Rotary Burlington Music Festival, Past President of the Rotary Club of Burlington Central and member of the Wellness Committee at the church she attends. Mae is a Registered Nurse.