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Introduction

What is the Age-friendly municipalities approach?

The Age-Friendly Municipalities approach stems from the idea of the Age-Friendly Cities program (AFC) launched in 2005 at the 18th World Congress of Gerontology, organized by the International Association of Gerontology and Geriatrics, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Since then, Canada, and more particularly Quebec play a very active role in its development and its implementation.

An age-friendly city encourages active ageing by optimizing opportunities for health, participation and security in order to enhance quality of life as people age. In practical terms, an age-friendly city adapts its structures and services to be accessible to and inclusive of older people with varying needs and capacities. To understand the characteristics of an age-friendly city, it is essential to go to the source – older city dwellers. OMS (2007:1)

An AFM or an AFC approach?

The AFM designation is used for the Quebec program and the approach taken in Quebec.

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The AFC designation is often chosen when the approach is set in the international context.

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The AFC-QC designation refers to the research of the seven pilot projects carried out in Quebec from 2008 to 2013.

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This section of the site aims to present the context and the theoretical underpinnings on which relies the Age-Friendly Municipalities approach in Quebec.

The phenomenon of the aging population

Quebec is characterized by a rapid demographic aging, making it the second fastest aging country worldwide after Japan. In 2006, seniors of 65 years and over accounted for 14% of the population, in the year 2020, they will represent 21%, and in 2030, they will account for more than one third of the population (27 %).

 

Seniors of 65 years and over
years
 

Even if the urbanization of populations is in constant progress, the AFM approach aims to enlighten the conditions of aging both in urban and rural areas. For more information on the effects that will have the demographic aging on municipalities, please refer to the report released in 2004 by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs, Sports and Recreation entitled: « Les effets du vieillissement de la population québécoise sur la gestion des affaires et des services municipaux »*.

Seniors must live in an environment that will enable them to continue to pursue an active life. The Global Age-Friendly Cities: A Guide produced by the World Health Organization (WHO, 2007) proposes ways for adapting living environments to the seniors’ needs. This global guide is the product of an extensive international research project representing all the continents and which had been carried out in 33 cities throughout the world (including Sherbrooke). The Canadian government has also produced a document for the rural communities "Age-Friendly Rural and Remote Communities: A Guide".

* "The Effects of the Quebec’s Aging Population on Local Governance and Municipal Service Management"

Context of the Quebec’s aging population

The importance of considering seniors’ needs at the municipal level has to be seen within the context of the aging population and joined all the municipalities for which the issues surrounding this reality are different. Seniors are a heterogeneous group with needs, capacities and various interests, but most of them wish to remain at home as long as possible.

 

  1. 1. The aging population
  2. 2. A challenge for all municipalities
  3. 3. . Older people : a heterogeneous group
  4. 4. The importance of an adapted living environment

The United Nations estimates that by 2050 the proportion of persons aged 60 years or over will exceed that of children under 15 years of age.1. According to data from the l’Institut de la statistique du Québec (ISQ)*, Québec is one of the societies where population ageing is most pronounced in the world. After Japan, the province is the second fastest aging country worldwide. In 2006, seniors aged 65 and over represented 14% of the population, in 2020, they will represent 21%, and in 2030, they will account for more than one third of the population (27 %).

According to data from the (ISQ)2 :

  • Today, the proportion of people aged 65 years and over is almost 15% and could reach 28% in 2056. In the next few years, the proportion of seniors should exceed people under the age of 15 ;

  • The number of centenarians in Quebec could reach 19 000 in 2056, compared to a little more than 1000 in 2006 ;

  • c. The age structure within the population of 65 years and over will be induced to change significantly with the arrival of baby-boomers. Indeed, the proportion of the 75 to 89 years of age range will rise dramatically from almost 232 000 in 1986 to 1.2 million in 2056, thereby surpassing that the 65 to 74 years of age range who will be then 1.1 million. Those 90 years and over should see their number multiplied by 8 in 50 years to stand at 323 300 in 2056, and their proportion among seniors to leap from 4% to 13%.

This increase in the proportion of seniors in Quebec is explained by two factors :
According to ISQ projections, by 2051.

Increase in life expectancy

( IN YEARS OF LIFE )

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Birth decrease

A decrease in the birth rate since 1950: despite a consecutive increase of the number of births since the last six years, the fertility index (average number of children per woman) estimated at 1.74% stays under the threshold of generational renewal set at approximately 2.1 in the developed countries2.

This demographic transformation means that Québec society is facing a collective challenge. Changes must be made in all sectors of activity if we are to adapt to this new reality. These changes must allow older people to participate fully in Québec’s development while also allowing Québec to maintain its social, cultural and economic development.

*The Quebec Bureau of Statistics.

As populations age, the world is becoming increasingly urbanized4. Québec has not escaped this phenomenon, since four out of every five people live in an urban setting. Large urban centres will have to adapt their services, since the number of older people living in cities will continue to grow. That said, over the next twenty years, all municipalities in Québec, large cities and rural municipalities alike, will see an increase in the number of people aged 65 or over5.

Adapting to population ageing will be a challenge for rural municipalities. Failure to act could cause an exodus of older people to cities. Needs will be more pressing in some situations (for example, when an older person has difficulty taking care of a house that has become too big, the loss of a spouse or a decline in health). However, this exodus can be prevented by rethinking how we live together and by developing a range of appropriate resources and services.

At the moment, the vast majority of older people live in their own homes. Most are healthy and independent, i.e., they are able to do all the activities they want to. However, others have started to lose their motor skills and need caregivers or services to be able to stay in their homes. Some have an income that allows them to make the most of the activities available to them, while others live in poverty. Lastly, some are able to rely on their spouse or children, while others go through old age alone.

Therefore, older people form a heterogenous group. It is important to take individual characteristics into account in order to adapt services and infrastructures to the realities and living conditions of all older people.

In fall 2007, during the public consultation on older people’s living conditions, participants stressed their desire to live in their own homes, near their family and friends, for as long as possible.6. In addition to providing services and infrastructures that meet their needs, it is also important to promote opportunities for solidarity between the generations.

Older people require built and social environments that enable them to continue to live active and meaningful lives. The WHO publications Global Age-friendly Cities: A Guide and Checklist of Essential Features of Age-friendly Cities8 propose ways municipalities can adapt to older people’s needs. The Government of Canada also published a document for rural communities: Age-Friendly Rural and Remote Communities: A Guide. 15

References :

1. UNITED NATIONS (UN), World Population Ageing 2009, New York, United Nations, 2009.

2. INSTITUT DE LA STATISTIQUE DU QUÉBEC (ISQ), Perspectives démographiques du Québec et des régions – 2006-2056, Québec, Institut de la statistique du Québec, 2009.

3. L. DUCHESNE, La situation démographique au Québec, bilan 2005. Les familles au tournant du XXIe siècle, Québec, Institut de la statistique du Québec, 2005.

4. WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION (WHO), Global Age-friendly Cities: A Guide.

5. MINISTÈRE DES AFFAIRES MUNICIPALES, DU SPORT ET DU LOISIR, Les effets du vieillissement de la population québécoise sur la gestion des affaires et des services municipaux, Québec, Gouvernement du Québec, 2004.

6. MINISTÈRE DE LA FAMILLE ET DES AÎNÉS, Rapport de la consultation publique sur les conditions de vie des aînés: Préparons l’avenir avec nos aînés, Québec, Gouvernement du Québec, 2008.

7. WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION (WHO), Global Age-friendly Cities: A Guide.

8. WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION (WHO), Checklist of Essential Features of Age-friendly Cities, WHO Library, Geneva, World Health Organization, 2007.