Canada’s suburbs must rethink development to prepare for aging population

March 8th, 2017
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Montreal – With Canada’s population aging rapidly, municipalities must refocus their community planning efforts to deal with the impact of decades-old car-dependent suburban sprawl that leaves less-mobile seniors isolated, says a new publication from the Institute for Research on Public Policy.

Today seniors prefer to “age at home,” but most older residents who do wish to stay in their own neighbourhoods have limited housing options, says author Glenn Miller (a senior associate with the Canadian Urban Institute in Toronto). “It is fair to say that our current suburbs are no place to grow old.”

Miller notes that although more than 500 Canadian municipalities have declared their intention to become “age friendly,” this movement has led only to minor physical improvements, such as more park benches, better lighting or clearer signage. No municipalities have yet taken the basic step of amending their land-use plans to reflect that commitment.

According to the author, amending provincial planning policies to make age-friendly planning a municipal priority would complement other provincial policies favouring compact, walkable development and promoting aging at home. It would also nudge municipalities to take concrete steps to integrate the age-friendly-communities concept in their planning and development- review processes.

Departments of public health are becoming increasingly vocal about the connection between healthy aging and the built environment, he says. “A key goal of age-friendly development is to provide housing options that work for people at all stages of their lives – attractive neighbourhoods that encourage walking and easy access to essential amenities.”

Miller concludes that as the number of elderly seniors continues to grow, collaboration across provincial and municipal initiatives will be the key to successfully adapting suburbs and transportation networks to meet the needs of Canada’s aging population.

No Place to Grow Old: How Canadian Suburbs Can Become Age Friendly, by Glenn Miller, can be downloaded from the Institute’s website (irpp.org).

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The Institute for Research on Public Policy is an independent, national, bilingual, not-for-profit organization based in Montreal. To receive updates from the IRPP, please subscribe to our e-mail list.

Media contact:    Shirley Cardenas    tel. 514-594-6877    scardenas@nullirpp.org