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AFM in Quebec

Introduction

On October 1, 2007 the World Health Organization (WHO) launched the Global Age-Friendly Cities: A Guide as a result of an extensive research project which was conducted in 33 cities across the world. This tool allows you to take an objective look at active aging and on various ways to adapt living environments to the seniors’ needs.

In this context, and as a result of the public consultation on the living conditions of seniors held in 2007, the Seniors’ Secretariat (SS) has supported the development and implementation of the Age-Friendly Municipalities approach (AFM) in Quebec, with the Research Centre on Aging (CRDV) of the Health and Social Services Centre - University Institute of Geriatrics of Sherbrooke (CSSS-IUGS).

Given the results of the pilot projects of the AFC-QC research (for more details, please refer to the section The team), the Government of Quebec set up, in 2009, the Age-Friendly Municipalities program (AFM). This program is intended to adapt policies, services and structures to the realities of aging populations. One of the winning conditions is to ensure that seniors participate in each of the steps and that the community as a whole contributes to it. At the beginning of 2014, more than 700 Quebec municipalities joined the AFM program.

The Support Program

Since 2009, the Seniors’ Secretariat (SS) has provided financial assistance to municipalities and regional county municipalities (RCMs) that undertake an AFM initiative. The goal of the AFM initiative is to help municipalities and RCMs encourage older people to become actively involved in their communities and make the vision of a society for all ages a reality. Municipalities and RCMs interested in the project will find in The Support Program of the AFM approach the support they need to achieve a local or regional mobilization approach and an action plan promoting active aging.

In an AFM, a culture of social inclusion develops, irrespective of the age or capacities of the people concerned. The policies, services and structures that shape built and social environments are designed to support older people and help them stay active as they age.

5 Objectives

A Senior-friendly municipality works to : (Click on each objective to read more.)

1. Combat ageism

It is vital to combat ageism, for it is an obstacle to active ageing. Ageism is a form of discrimination based on chronological age or presumed age. One of the myths of ageing is that it’s too late to adopt an active lifestyle in the later years; it’s better to take it easy and make way for the young. On the contrary, older people benefit from maintaining or adopting healthy lifestyle habits and doing stimulating activities, be they paid, volunteer or recreational. Older people who are involved in the community or find ways to become involved continue to be useful or feel useful, develop their skills, avoid isolation and improve their self-esteem.

2. Adapt municipal policies, services and structures

In an AFM, the policies, services and structures that shape the environment are designed to support older people and help them stay active as they age. In particular, they can improve older people’s mobility and promote their participation in activities and municipal life. The harmonization of services and structures also allows municipalities to better serve older people. To achieve this, we must first define what is meant by “older person” in each community.

3. Adopt a comprehensive and integrated approach

A municipality that is concerned about older people’s needs must take action on a number of interrelated fronts. It is therefore important to adapt public policies and programs so that they are more supportive of active ageing and pave the way for more collaborative local and regional action in favour of older people. A number of sectors of municipal activity are concerned by active ageing. Representatives of all these sectors (transportation, urban planning, community life, etc.) must work together, and with older people, to find viable solutions. An integrated vision will allow the municipality to take care of present and future generations of older people. For example, a rural municipality that manages to keep its families on its territory and attract others will, in the medium and long term, ensure a continued vitality that will enable it to maintain certain services that will be used by both young people and older adults.

4. Promote the participation of older people

The WHO supports the idea that, from the outset, older people’s needs must be identified and they must be allowed to voice their opinions. Focus groups or community forums are interesting methods because they provide access to the views of the primary stakeholders affected by a complex reality, which is not always possible with other methods such as questionnaires. Discussions also allow the views of people who are more isolated and who do not usually participate in public hearings to be heard. The AFM initiative is based on older people’s experience of what works or does not work for them and the improvements needed to create a more supportive environment. Furthermore, an AFM encourages older people’s community involvement and civic participation at every stage of a project. Hence the project is not only carried out for older people, but also by older people.

5. Rely on collaborative partnerships and the mobilization of the whole community

As the term “senior-friendly municipality” implies, the municipality is central to the collaborative approach and must act as a catalyst for forces in the community. It must involve the whole community in creating a more supportive living environment for its older people. This means mobilizing key stakeholders from various sectors as well as older citizens themselves. If the goal of the proposed initiative is to adapt policies, services and structures to older people’s needs, it must also improve democratic life. This means it is important to work with community stakeholders. This is what is referred to as "mobilization of the community." It can be defined as a global process whereby the influential forces in a community come together to achieve a common objective or carry out a common project. Mobilization of the community must be based on a set of principles, namely:1. Mobilization of the community must be based on a set of principles, namely2 :

  • a common vision of needs and the strategies to be employed to achieve the desired change ;
  • mechanisms of community participation that allow the target organizations and the entire population to be consulted and involved in any project or initiative ;
  • the conclusion of intersectoral partnership agreements in order to share challenges and resources.

Therefore, the municipality is not working alone: it can rely on the support of local stakeholders from the health sector, community organizations, volunteer groups and private organizations. In many cases, mobilization of the community involves bringing people together who do not usually work with one another. They must be allowed time to get used to one another. The alliances forged will help ensure the actions undertaken endure.

References :

  1. W.A. NINACS, Empowerment et intervention: Développement de la capacité d’agir et de la solidarité, Québec, Les Presses de l’Université Laval, 2008.
  2. C. FAUBERT, Fostering Community Mobilization, Capacity, and Ownership of a Community-University Initiative: An Intermediary Change Agent’s Perspective, doctoral thesis (assessment process), Ottawa, University of Ottawa, 2008.