“Age-friendly cities are just ‘friendly’ cities.” – Dr. Pauli Gardner

Through “go along” interviews, the project’s intergenerational teams worked collaboratively to assess the age-friendliness of St. Catharines. But what is an age-friendly city, exactly? Understanding this term, and the multi-sectoral approach of age-friendly city research, is key to the significance of this study’s findings.

Defining Age-Friendly Cities
Why Focus on Aging?
Why Focus on Community Resources?
What are the Strengths and Weaknesses of this Approach?
What is Active Aging?
Neighbourhood Factors on Aging
What is the Importance of Intergenerational Programs, Projects, and Places?
How we Prepared/Learned about Aging

What is an Age-Friendly City?

An age-friendly city adapts its structures and services to be accessible to and inclusive of older people with varying needs and capacities. In an age-friendly city, policies, services, settings, and structures support and enable people to age actively by:

  • 8 Age-Friendly Domains

    8 Age-Friendly Domains

    recognizing the wide range of capacities and resources among older people;

  • anticipating and responding flexibly to aging-related needs and preferences;
  • respecting their decisions and lifestyle choices;
  • protecting those who are most vulnerable;
  • promoting the inclusion of older adults in, and valuing their contribution to, all areas of community life

The framework for ‘age-friendly’ city research is a place-based, multi-sectoral approach. The Through Their Eyes project adopted this particular approach to better understand the perspectives and concerns of older citizens in the St. Catharines community. The 8 domains that comprise this framework are: housing, transportation, public spaces, information and communication, respect and social inclusion, social participation, civic participation and employment, health and social services.

Screen Shot 2014-05-10 at 1.46.57 AMFor more information you can view a free online webinar “Through An Age-Friendly Lens: Planning For An Inclusive And Economically Vibrant Niagara – Event Recording” presented by Pauli Gardner & Dominic Ventresca. 

See also: “Brock University Student Radio: Interview With Pauli Gardner About Being Age-Friendly.” During this audio interview with Brock University Student Radio, Pauli talks further about ageism and age-friendliness. Pauli’s interview is from 41:27 – 57:07. 

Pauli Gardner, associate professor in the Department of Health Sciences; Lynn McCleary, associate professor in the Department of Nursing; and Kimberly Gammage, associate professor in the Department of Kinesiology and the director of the Brock Seniors Exercise Program explore the concept of age-friendly communities and how to create them in this podcast.

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Why Focus on Aging?

AGING IS UNIVERSAL! It’s an inevitable fact that since birth we are all aging and, as with every age group, seniors are priceless assets to the success of communities.

erin5It’s important to focus on aging because of the rapidly growing population; according to the World Health Organization there are more seniors than ever before and people are living longer than ever before (source). Statistics Canada reports that seniors accounted for nearly 15% of the Canadian population in 2011 – and 19% of the Niagara region population. The proportion of seniors in Canada is expected to continue to grow to an estimated quarter of the population over the next 20 years (source). 70% of seniors want to “age in place,” meaning they want to remain in their own homes for as long as possible. With more and more seniors wishing to live in their community-dwelling homes we see a need to evaluate the age-friendliness of the community they live in.

Aging Statistics & Information

  • People are living longer lives than before and there is a higher number of older adults than in previous generations.
  • In Canada in 2011, approximately 5 million seniors aged 65 and over lived in Canada.
    • Of these people, 92.1% lived in private households (source)
  • The number of seniors aged 65 and over increased 14.1% between 2006 and 2011 to nearly 5 million. This rate of growth was higher than that of children aged 14 and under (0.5%) and people aged 15 to 64 (5.7%).
  • Seniors accounted for a record high of 14.8% of the population in Canada in 2011, up from 13.7% five years earlier.
  • In 2011, there were 5,825 centenarians in Canada, up 25.7% since 2006. This was the second most rapidly growing age group among all age groups after those aged 60 to 64.

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Why Focus on Community Resources?

meme02In 2011, the proportion of seniors who lived in a private household in Canada was 92.1%, demonstrating an increasing demand for aging in place. A national survey of Canadians commissioned by Living Assistance Services and conducted by Acrobat Research indicates that almost 80% of surveyed individuals believed aging at home offers a better quality of life.

Since there are limited public healthcare dollars for nursing homes, there is a public concern regarding the economic “burden” of seniors living in nursing homes. Additionally, an increasing pressure from older adult activists (“raging grannies” and “grey panthers”) to make changes exist, as well as pressure from boomers.

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What are the Strengths and Weaknesses of this Approach?


  • Age friendly cities benefit everyone; “age friendly cities are just ‘friendly’ cities”
  • Inter-sectoral
  • Promotes positive aging
  • No ‘victim blaming’ since everyone has responsibility within the community
  • Involves older people as assets and knowledge experts to the community


  • Takes time and resources
  • Complicated process; since everyone is involved there must be majority agreement for the system to function effectively
  • Societal beliefs and pressure to prioritize young versus old

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What is Active Aging?

Active aging is the process of optimizing opportunities for health, participation, and security in order to enhance quality of life as people age. Active aging in age-friendly communities allows seniors to continue to age in place.  This is beneficial for decreasing the economic burden of seniors dependent on nursing homes and allows for public healthcare dollars to be allocated elsewhere.    

Active Aging Framework

  • Emphasis on autonomy/choice with aging
  • A model of viewing aging as a positive experience of continued growth and participation in family, community, and societal activities, regardless of physical and cognitive decline

Key Factors or Determinants of Active active agingAging

  • Gender
  • Culture
  • Economic determinants
  • Health and Social Services
  • Behavioural determinants
  • Personal determinants
  • Physical environment
  • Social determinants

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Neighbourhood Factors on Aging

1024px-Amenities_around_st_catharines_bus_depot_2The various neighbourhood factors that influence activity among older adults include:

  • Local shopping and services
  • Traffic and pedestrian infrastructure
  • Neighbourhood attractiveness
  • Public transportation

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What is the Importance of Intergenerational Programs, Projects, and Places?

Since active aging is a lifelong process, an age-friendly community is not just “elderly friendly.” An age-friendly community is beneficial for every member of society – not just seniors – as everyone benefits from a friendly, walk-able, safe environment that focuses on inclusion and accessibility. Everyone benefits from an age-friendly community: individuals, families, businesses, government and the community as a whole. This concept also draws on the valuable knowledge and skills of seniors as it involves older people as assets and knowledge experts. Seniors play an important role in our society as they act as important contributors in volunteer and paid work as well as in civic activities, and can benefit a community economically from the patronage of senior consumers.

“Involving older people is an essential element of an age-friendly city. Their contributions are important for city assessments, setting priorities, proposing solutions for action, and monitoring progress.”  Weblink:

Intergenerational Computer Training Programs for Seniors have positive impacts on youth and senior citizens alike. Some of these impacts are outlined below for both age groups.

Image from “Hyper-Linking the Generations” Video


  • Gain respect and understanding
  • Establishment of social connectedness
  • Improved self-efficacy
  • Educational success


  • Respect and understanding
  • Access to information
  • Social connectedness
  • Social participation

Youth, seniors, teachers and principals talk about their experience and views of the Older Adults Technology Services (OATS) Intergenerational Program, “Hyper-Linking the Generations” here. It is a 4 minute video about this intergenerational program for schools and communities in New York.

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How we Prepared/Learned about Aging for the Project

Before we began the project we first needed to develop an understanding of “what is aging”. We started by reading articles, watching videos, actively listening and participating in lecture, having discussions with our colleagues, and partook in activities, all of which surrounded the topic of aging in communities. The articles and videos that we studied prior to the project are as follows:

What is Community? This article outlines the definition of community, different types, and characteristics of a community. 

Assessing and Planning This article examines principles and values of healthy cities that guided the next five years of community development and growth in Zagreb.

Age-Friendly Communities These articles explore what an age-friendly community is and the strengths and weaknesses associated with them.

Healthy Community Workshop This radio interview with Dr. Gardner evaluates what age-friendly communities encompass.

The Environment These readings outline the neighborhood conditions that influence health community development.

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