Two senior women who had successful careers refused to retire. They met serendipitously. Now Lucy Marco, a Canadian, and Jean Kincade, an American residing in Canada, have been revolutionizing the age-friendly-cities movement in Brantford, Ontario. With high level careers in the health services, they have utilized both their knowledge and passion to be a driving force in creating a master aging plan for their community and pioneer the movement across the country. By forming a steering committee, providing webinars to various organizations, gathering political support, and obtaining grants, these women are developing a model for urban entities to follow.
"Today's seniors are better educated, more technically sophisticated, have more disposable income and are healthier and living longer." says Lucy Marco. Now Lucy and Jean are making sure that this new demographic gets the support they need to continue to live dynamic lives.
As an indicator of the global awareness on the importance of urban environments for the elderly, The World Health Organization held the First International Conference on Age-Friendly Cities in Dublin, Ireland this past September 2011. It brought together people from all over the world, from public, private and voluntary sectors to share their thoughts and plans, their challenges and opportunities. With the forecast of 2 billion people who will be aged 60 and over by 2050, the urgency is immediate. Ideas will be for large scale transportation and housing and also innovations on a small scale such as increasing public seating by encouraging private donors to dedicate benches in memory of loved ones (Saanich, Canada).
Locally, Philadelphia has the highest proportion of older persons (age 60+) of any of the 10 largest cities in the United States and therefore understands the critical importance of providing an age-friendly community for its seniors. The Philadelphia Corporation for Aging (PCA) has taken the lead as a catalyst by bringing partners together to build this change through programs and services that meet and embrace a new urban model. The Age Friendly Philadelphia initiatives collaborate on:
1. Making parks more age friendly
2. Helping public transportation become more accessible
3. Increasing opportunities for flexible housing
4. Improving walkability
5. Enhancing neighborhood social capital
6. Improving access to fresh foods
7. Educating the next generation of leaders
And there are many organizations poised to help older people in Philadelphia. Coming of Age was founded by WHYY, AARP, United Way and The Intergenerational Center at Temple University to help people age 50 and over explore their future and connect to their community. Director Dick Goldberg says” Communities must respond or miss the opportunity of fully engaging the largest, most educated generation of social innovators in the nation’s history”.
The future starts right now. It starts with knowing what’s ahead and optimizing plans for success.
“It’s no use saying ‘We are doing our best.” You have got to succeed in doing what is necessary.”