Setting our sights on an age-friendly midtown

Midtown has the highest percentage of seniors living in Toronto

One of the last isms to tackle is agism and a new movement is setting its sights on that battle. Why? It’s simple. We live in an aging world.

The Baby Boomers, the largest generation ever, is passing into its senior years and threatens to overwhelm governmental systems at all levels — healthcare, home care, pensions, housing, transportation and other infrastructure.

Previously in most developed countries, a very large working class supported a very small aging population but for the first time in history this was going to be just the opposite with a much smaller working class supporting a huge number of seniors.

People are living longer due to medical developments and other societal factors. When the  retirement age was first at 65 only 1 per cent of the population lived that long. Now the average life expectancy for women is 88 and men 83. A child born today can easily live to celebrate their 100th birthday!

The World Health Organization saw that most countries were not preparing for this change and started a pilot project in 33 countries around the world in 2005.

Since then the network has grown to thousands of cities on every continent and in February 2015 Toronto was accepted as a member and an Age Friendly Toronto is born.

Councillor Josh Matlow was appointed the Seniors Advocate and a seniors strategy that he proposed four years earlier and submitted to the WHO gained us entry.

The Toronto Council on Aging (TCA) picked up the mantle here in Toronto funded by the Trillium Foundation and the Ontario Senior Secretariat and stated their own pilot project following the New York  model. They started smack in the middle of Councillor Mallow’s Ward 22.

It wasn’t because Councillor Mallow is a supporter — which he is — but because midtown has the highest percentage of seniors living in Toronto.

The first thing to do was to take an inventory of the area in terms of seniors organizations, health and service agencies, churches, resident associations, non-profits serving seniors, libraries, community centres and businesses The next thing was to create what we called a  Neighbourhood Cabinet,  which was  new infrastructure at the community level — where representatives from all these organizations would come together and collaborate on projects aimed at supporting seniors aging in place.

Aging in place, active living, keeping engaged, and social connection keep people healthy. Social isolation leads to depression and illness. So the goal is really to keep people healthy and active longer, even into their  retirement years!

Some of the activities that we will be undertaking in the neighbourhood are:

A Chair at Your Door Campaign — asking businesses in the area to put out a couple of chairs at their front door so that seniors who need a place to rest can sit down on hot summer days

Ramp It UP! – any business that has a lip or step at the entrance will be asked if they would like a portable ramp to aid accessibility into their premises

Silver Alert Program for seniors who may wander off

A Seniors Portal for Midtown (www.torontomidtwnseniors.ca) — a  one-stop compilation of services and programs for seniors in the midtown area to make it easier for seniors, including a housing registry for seniors looking to rent or  share their homes

Vertical Communities Project — working with apartment rental and management companies  and tenant associations to increase value added for tenants by offering ancillary services in the party rooms, such as lunch and dinner, functions, yoga classes, swimming and aquafit classes for those buildings that have pools, exercise classes, , etc.

This is just the beginning.

For more information on how you or your business can get involved please contact adinalebo@sympatico.ca or call 905-691-3462.