Creating a more inclusive Ontario: age-friendly community planning guide for municipalities and community organizations
Learn how to plan, implement and sustain community programs that foster age-friendly, inclusive and accessible communities.
On this page Skip this page navigation
The Creating a More Inclusive Ontario: age-friendly community planning guide for municipalities and community organizations is intended for those working to develop and support age-friendly communities in Ontario.
The following documents are referenced throughout the guide:
- Creating a more inclusive Ontario: diverse populations addendum—Ontario has many unique rural, small urban, immigrant and Indigenous communities with an aging population. This resource offers detailed information about these populations and factors to consider when engaging them in your work to create inclusive and accessible age-friendly communities.
- Creating a more inclusive Ontario: age-friendly community planning toolkit—This includes tools and templates to support your work throughout the process to create an inclusive and accessible age-friendly community.
- Age-friendly community remote events planning resource—This resource provides advice on how to bring your project team and stakeholders together. Whether due to COVID‑19, weather or geography, remote events can be a safe and low-cost way to hold community gatherings. All planning activities and actions must follow local public health advice.
Please email us if you need print-ready files.
About age-friendly communities
Age-friendly communities help create more accessible environments for people of all ages and abilities across diverse communities in our province.
These communities respond to the opportunities and challenges of an aging population by creating physical and social environments that:
- support independent and active living
- enable older adults and people with disabilities to continue contributing to all aspects of community life.
They also align with the Advancing Accessibility in Ontario framework which aims to make the province more inclusive and accessible for everyone, by focusing on four key areas:
- breaking down barriers in the built environment
- government leading by example
- increasing participation in the economy for people with disabilities and
- improving understanding and awareness about accessibility.
Community leaders and residents in age-friendly communities work together to ensure that local policies, programs and services are accessible, inclusive and support the social and physical environments that enable Ontarians to live safe, active and meaningful lives.
Age-friendly community domains
The World Health Organization has identified eight overlapping domains of community life that affect an individual’s personal wellbeing and their independent and active living in physical and social environments. These eight domains are the basis for the steps outlined in this guide and are summarized below.
Outdoor spaces and public buildings
When people view a neighborhood as safe and accessible, it encourages people to participate in outdoor activities and engage with the community. Accessibility involves removing barriers that limit opportunities for people with disabilities, including older adults with age-related limitations and/or disabilities.
The condition and design of transportation-related infrastructure, such as signage, traffic lights and sidewalks affect personal mobility. Access to reliable, affordable public transit becomes increasingly important when driving becomes stressful, challenging or is no longer available as an option.
Housing options that are affordable, accessible, supportive and incorporate flexibility through adaptive features, style and location choices are essential for age-friendly communities.
Social participation involves the level of interaction that older adults and people with disabilities have with other members of their community and the extent that the community makes this interaction and inclusion possible.
Respect and social inclusion
Community attitudes, such as a general feeling of respect and recognition of the role that older adults and people with disabilities play in our society, are critical factors for establishing an inclusive and age-friendly community.
Civic participation and employment
Civic engagement includes the desire to be involved in aspects of community life that extend beyond day-to-day activities, such as:
- becoming politically active
- working on committees.
The ability to continue working or find new employment provides economic security for older adults, and people of all ages and abilities. This includes having access to accessible environments, including accessible workplaces.
Community support and health services
Access to, and awareness of, mental and physical health programs and services contribute to quality of life and age-friendliness.
Communication and information
Age-friendly communities provide readily accessible information about community events or important services in formats that are appropriate for older adults and people with disabilities. An age-friendly community recognizes the diversity of its population and promotes initiatives to reach as many people as possible.
In this guide
This planning guide combines emerging research with what Ontario communities have learned from their age-friendly community initiatives. It offers a widely used and comprehensive approach to planning, implementing and evaluating community programs that is intended to foster self-determination, inclusiveness and accountability.
This guide provides information about, and resources for, each of the interconnected steps in the process which form the main sections of the guide:
- Step 1: define local principles
- Step 2: assess need
- Step 3: develop action plan
- Step 4: implement and evaluate
The guide also has information on how to maintain momentum and sustain success, with a table summarizing the factors that successful age-friendly community initiatives in Ontario have identified as contributing to sustainability.
Becoming an age-friendly community is an iterative and ongoing process that complements and fits into existing planning and development work in municipalities.
The revised guide emphasizes the importance of promoting sustainability for age-friendly communities and includes new items such as:
- the Getting to Outcomes® implementation framework
- a sustainability planning framework
- community tips from members of local age-friendly communities who have had experience with the steps in the process (offered throughout the guide)
- case studies showing what communities have done to improve age-friendliness across the eight domains, with each case study describing the initiative, program partners, funding, challenges, impact and plans for sustainability
A list of resources, navigation guide and glossary of key terms is also included.
Step 1: define local principles
In this step, you will learn how to create a planning structure around a local initiative and determine which age-friendly community domains are most relevant to your community.
Defining local age-friendly community principles is fundamental to grassroots community development and is a task any dedicated group of individuals can complete. This section highlights approaches that communities have used to begin their age-friendly planning.
You will learn how to:
- form a steering committee
- build your team
- define roles and responsibilities
- create infrastructure and consider funding
- create guiding principles
- create an age-friendly community profile
- discuss goals
Step 2: assess need
In this step, you will learn how to:
- collect more detailed information about the age-friendly priorities in your community
- identify your community’s person-environment fit for older adults
This includes a consultation phase to gather evidence from a complete range of community stakeholders, particularly:
- older adults
- people with disabilities
- community organizations
- service providers
This section provides detailed information to help you engage stakeholders through a combination of consultation methods, such as:
- community-wide needs assessment (survey)
- key informant interviews
- focus groups
- community meetings
You will learn about the process to:
- leverage your assets that already exist within the community to accelerate and strengthen your work. Successful strategies include:
- collaborating with a university or college
- getting advice and technical assistance from professionals in a relevant field
- accessing the experience and expertise of other age-friendly community committees
- submitting a grant application for funding to support a needs assessment
- carry out a community-wide needs assessment (survey) designed for your unique geographic, social and demographic circumstances, with questions addressing local realities
- collect information using multiple methods to ensure you are reaching a representative sample of the older adults and key stakeholders in your community
- update your age-friendly community profile, developed during step 1, after you have conducted consultations within your community
Step 3: develop action plan
In this step, you will learn how to select specific actions that address the key needs you have identified and develop an age-friendly community action plan that includes short and long-term strategies to enhance older adults’ quality of life. An action plan typically has:
- a community profile
- a description of the consultation process
- an overview of the current state
- a definition of the future state (the action plan)
You will learn about the process to:
- select priorities that will be the focus of your action plan using the developing priorities worksheet found in the Creating a more inclusive Ontario: Age-friendly community planning toolkit
- refine goals and select objectives that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound (SMART)
- identify strategies (actions) to address gaps in some or all the eight age-friendly community domains, in response to local needs and assets
- identify leads to share their experience and connections
- assess the fit between proposed actions and community needs and capacities before moving ahead to assess community preparedness and anticipated barriers
- identify timelines and resource allocation to assess whether your steering committee and partners have the capacity, time and resources to implement the proposed actions in your community
- create a program logic model (PLM) that is a road map for how your community’s vision to become more age-friendly and accessible will be realized
- draft age-friendly community action plan using the eight domains to structure it
- present age-friendly community action plan to municipal council
Step 4: implement and evaluate
In this step, you will learn how to:
- begin implementation
- identify primary users
- determine the purpose of your evaluation
- plan for both process and outcome evaluation activities
- improve your existing age-friendly community action plan
You will learn about the processes to:
- capitalize on quick wins
- leverage funding opportunities
- adjust governance structure
- seek out academic partnerships
- identify primary users and target audiences
- define the purposes of evaluation
- monitor implementation activities
- conduct process evaluation
- choose outcome evaluation questions
- choose success indicators
- choose an evaluation design
- perform quality improvement
- report back to stakeholders
This planning guide combines emerging research with what Ontario communities have learned from their age-friendly community initiatives.
It offers a widely used and comprehensive approach to planning, implementing and evaluating community health programs that is intended to foster inclusiveness, self-determination and accountability.
We hope that you find the processes, tools and resources in this guide helpful in fulfilling the goals you have for your community.
By working together, sharing best practices and learning from success, we can support the development of age-friendly communities in Ontario that are sustainable, inclusive and accessible to everyone.