Congratulations to the City of Waterloo for being designated an official Age Friendly City by the World Health Organization!
Age Friendly Cities (AFC) are communities that consider the accessibility and inclusion to be top priorities. The underlying philosophy is that: “if you design for the young, you exclude the old. Design for the old and you include everyone.” The AFC initiative is not an elderly initiative—it is an everyone initiative. Making the community accessible for wheelchairs also means that the community is accessible to someone using a walker or pushing a baby stroller.
The World Health Organization (WHO) focuses on eight core areas when designating an Age Friendly City, including:
- outdoor buildings and spaces
- community support and health services
- communication and information
- civic respect and employment
- respect and social inclusion
- social participation
Locally, Arlene Groh, a founding member of the Waterloo Region Committee on Elder Abuse, felt very strongly that the AFC concept could be an important elder abuse prevention strategy. In 2009, Groh approached Mayor Halloran and suggested that the City of Waterloo become an AFC. Unlike other cities around the world who have had difficulty with political backing, Mayor Halloran was very quick to support the development of an AFC within Waterloo.
Mayor Halloran hosted a number of forums starting in November 2009. It was unknown if there would be any public interest, and Mayor Halloran and Arlene Groh expected 40 community members to be present at the forum. They were pleasantly surprised when 175 people arrived! Clearly, there was strong interest not only from the Mayor, but also from the residents of Waterloo Region. Groh formed the Mayor’s Advisory Committee and lead subcommittees that addressed each of the eight areas as outlined by the WHO.
The City of Waterloo is proud to be creating a city that allows graceful aging while also appealing to young people, maintaining a balance of all ages to create an inclusive society. An AFC is built on an active aging framework where all members of society can be actively engaged and involved in their community. Through this inclusion, elder abuse can be prevented because the root causes of ageism and social isolation are being addressed. Age Friendly Cities are proactive in the prevention of elder abuse.
The AFC certificate provided to the City of Waterloo by the World Health Organization
Brianna Zur took the lead in applying for the official WHO designation for Waterloo. The certificate has arrived and it is official—Waterloo is an Age Friendly City! Waterloo is only the 42nd city in the world to be granted AFC status by the WHO, so it is quite an accomplishment.
The work is not complete though. Unlike many certificates, the AFC certificate has an expiry date of September 2013. The AFC designation must be renewed and is contingent on continued work toward AFC goals. A city cannot rest on it’s laurels; it must continually make improvements towards inclusion of all members of society. There is always room for improvement, and Waterloo has committed to working towards being increasingly Age Friendly. Congratulations Waterloo!