Our project entitled, “Age Actively – AFC Plan for Diverse Senior Women,” used the Age-Friendly Communities Guide developed by The Ontario Seniors’ Secretariat (OSS), the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario (ADO), the University of Waterloo and McMaster University to develop up-to-date information on the needs of isolated groups that deserve an opportunity to contribute to their AFC plan.
York Region’s Senior Strategy was created in 2016 and provides a general idea of what can be done to make the community more age friendly. We believe the most effective Age Friendly Community plan should include diverse groups of seniors in order to truly ensure respect and accessibility to all.
York Region is experiencing significant growth in its senior population. Current projections indicate that the percentage of seniors making up the region’s total population will expand from 12 per cent in 2011 to 21 per cent by 2031. As the senior population grows, so does the demand on York Region programs and services used by seniors. Females outnumber males in both the boomer and senior populations
The experiences and needs of diverse groups are imperative to developing a complete plan. Our needs assessment will focus on isolated seniors from racialized, newcomer and LGBTQ populations. Senior Women from these groups face their own unique challenges that must be included in the AFC plan to support positive aging for everyone.
Noor Din, CEO of Human Endeavour. a non-profit organization that serves York and Simcoe regions says, ” Social isolation and loneliness are real issues for immigrant women, youth and especially seniors.”
“They end up depressed because they used to lead families, they had respect, but their kids are out of the house, working, and they’ve lost status.”
Zhou (2013) argues that when immigrant seniors arrive in Canada, they are immediately expected to integrate into a “much faster pace of life” (p. 289) but multiple barriers impede their incorporation. Our research shows that recently senior immigrants face chronic low income, lack of language proficiency in English or French, limited social networks, and lack of access to government programs (Kilbride et al. 2010; Mandell, Borras, and Phonepraseuth 2018). They may be disadvantaged by policies and public opinions that promote a narrative that immigrant seniors, especially sponsored seniors, constitute “state liabilities” (Aggarwal and Das Gupta 2012: 81)
In addition to discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity (and potentially multiple other grounds of discrimination), other factors at the individual and environmental levels may contribute to the isolation of LGBTQ seniors (Social Isolation of Seniors – A Focus on LGBTQ Seniors in Canada). Few studies specifically include the queer community. To counter the social isolation of LGBTQ seniors, it is important to work collectively to foster welcoming and inclusive environments, with a focus on LGBTQ community and the places that seniors frequent. Our needs assessment and AFC plan will fill the current gaps and work towards collecting relevant data to support seniors in living safely, enjoying good health and staying involved.
Our program supports the development of Age-Friendly Communities in York Region.
Through this project we:
1) Determined priorities of diverse seniors women in York Region
2) Connected isolated seniors to their peers and stakeholders to create inclusive spaces
3) Isolated Seniors became more involved in community development and policy making
4) Empowered senior women from racialized, newcomer and LGBTQ groups to be advocates and leaders
5) Increased senior independence 6) Increased feelings of belonging and inclusion
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