I was recently asked, “A friend of mine lives in a community that calls itself Age-Friendly…what is this? Can my community become Age-Friendly, too?” I am very pleased to know there is interest in the Age-Friendly movement and I am excited to share information about Manitoba’s vision to become the most Age-Friendly province in Canada.
In February 2008, the Manitoba government launched the Age-Friendly Manitoba Initiative. Its goal is to work together with various partners to make our province a better, healthier, safer place for Manitobans to live and thrive. The initiative is about creating supportive environments that encourage increased participation for people of all abilities and ages. In Age-Friendly communities, policies, programs and services are designed to make it easier for everyone to be active, contributing members of their community.
All generations benefit
One of the best things about Age-Friendly communities is that everyone benefits. For example, when a neighbourhood is safe, it is safe for children, youth and adults. Barrier-free buildings allow easy access to programs or services for younger and older people, people with disabilities and parents with strollers. Improvements such as repairing uneven sidewalks, installing new lighting and building wheelchair-accessible washrooms make environments safe and accessible for everyone.
Another important part of the Age-Friendly Initiative is its promotion of intergenerational activities. Many Age-Friendly communities offer programs that bring younger and older people together through various school activities, dances, storytelling and regular visits. Treating people of all ages with inclusion and respect is one of the most important aspects of the Age-Friendly movement.
Currently, 86 communities have joined the Age-Friendly Manitoba Initiative, composing approximately 80 per cent of all Manitobans, and we encourage and welcome more. Communities who join are provided with support from our Age-Friendly team as well as resources and information about how to become more accessible and socially inclusive. Communities that join the initiative are encouraged to follow Age-Friendly Milestones.
Milestones, endorsed by Manitoba, were developed in collaboration with the Public Health Agency of Canada and the World Health Organization to guide community action planning and provide a basis on which communities across the country can be recognized for their Age-Friendly achievements.
I am pleased to report that on June 25, we recognized and awarded 10 more communities for achieving milestones. Today, in total, there are 16 communities in Manitoba that have achieved Age-Friendly Milestones. I am proud of these communities for taking the necessary steps to ensure everyone, young and senior, has the same opportunity and means to lead a healthy, active life in environments that support and encourage respect between the ages.
Manitoba has been at the forefront of the Age-Friendly Initiative, and I am positive that one day, we will be recognized as one of the most Age-Friendly places to live. To learn more about Age-Friendly and how your community can join, please view the Age-Friendly video at gov.mb.ca/shas/agefriendly/whatsnew.html. The video highlights how communities across the province are working toward creating more Age-Friendly environments. It also celebrates some of Manitoba’s unique success stories and shows how the Age-Friendly Initiative is making a difference.
You may also visit the Age-Friendly website at www.agefriendlymanitoba.ca. I hope this information provides a greater sense of our vision for Manitoba and will inspire you to get involved and join this good work in your community.
As always, I invite you to contact the seniors information line with any comments, questions or for more information. Call 204-945-6565 in Winnipeg; toll free 1-800-665-6565.
Hon. Jim Rondeau is minister of Healthy Living, Seniors and Consumer Affairs.