Strategy Introduction

Over the next decade, the number of seniors living in Toronto will increase dramatically. It is important that the City of Toronto, and its Agencies, Boards, Corporations and Divisions (ABCDs), prepare for this demographic shift. This is important to help Toronto remain a safe, navigable, affordable, accessible and enjoyable city for everyone.

In April 2011, Councillor Josh Matlow (Ward 22, St. Paul's) brought forward a motion to City Council directing staff to develop a Seniors Strategy that builds on the existing work of the City and its partners, as well as current research and best practices. The motion was unanimously adopted by City Council.

A social movement to prevent and discourage ageism and enhance respect for older persons is growing across Toronto and around the world. The Toronto Seniors Strategy is an active response to the movement to build and sustain an accessible, equitable and just society for all. The Strategy identifies the direction and recommendations that will address the diverse needs of its older residents by embedding the values of respect, dignity, diversity, independence and equity in all its policies, programs and services.

Developing the Strategy

The Strategy was developed in six stages:

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  1. Seniors Strategy Subcommittee of the Community Development and Recreation Committee of City Council established (see Acknowledgements for a list of members);
  2. prior City reports related to seniors and implementation status of any recommendations reviewed; demographic analysis conducted; strategies and best practices in other major municipalities researched;
  3. Senior Management Steering Committee and a Staff Technical Working Group established representing 17 City Agencies, Boards, Corporations and Divisions;
  4. Seniors Expert Panel formed consisting of 33 leaders from the community, universities, business, medical and seniors' advocacy organizations (see Acknowledgements);
  5. stakeholders engaged using a consultation workbook, and specialized consultation events held; and
  6. principles developed and recommendations identified to reflect the feedback from the consultation process.

The Toronto Seniors Strategy has been developed to identify recommendations for action that are:

  • Practical
  • Achievable
  • Measurable
  • Linked to specific outcomes

The development and implementation of The Toronto Seniors Strategy recognizes that the City of Toronto is in a time of fiscal constraint. All three orders of government are looking to achieve better results with limited resources.

This Strategy is strategically linked to a number of other key City initiatives, including the Toronto Newcomer Strategy, the Recreation Service Plan, Housing Opportunities Toronto, and the Guide to Good Practice: Providing Equitable Service to Individuals of All Abilities. The Strategy aligns with the City of Toronto's efforts to respond to the Pedestrian Death Review conducted by the Office of the Chief Coroner for Ontario. The Strategy is also in alignment with current service planning initiatives in other City ABCDs.

Another important area of alignment is the mandatory accessibility standards for people with disabilities being developed under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. The City, local businesses and other organizations will need to work in partnership with the Province to become more accessible and inclusive.

Partnerships are particularly important to the use of resources. While the City of Toronto was developing this Strategy, the Province of Ontario launched a provincial Seniors Strategy. The provincial strategy, under the leadership of Dr. Samir K. Sinha, resulted in the report: Living Longer, Living Well. Dr. Sinha was also a member of the City's Seniors Expert Panel, so opportunities for discussion, knowledge exchange and alignment between the City's and the Province's strategies were frequently supported and prioritized.

Previous Work

This initiative is not the first to address the issues of older Torontonians. From previous reports dating back to 1999, 245 prior City recommendations were made relating to older adults or seniors in Toronto. Initiatives under the City's control had a much higher rate of implementation than requests governed by provincial or federal jurisdictions. For this reason, the focus of this Strategy is on actions that are within the City's power to enact.

The Role of the City of Toronto

Many of the services older Torontonians rely on are provided, directly or indirectly, by the provincial or federal governments and their agencies. Health care, home and community care, the Canada Pension Plan, and Old Age Security are just some examples.

Ultimately, decisions regarding these services are made by the provincial and federal governments. The City of Toronto will continue to engage other orders of governments on behalf of older Torontonians with regards to these services. But the primary focus of The Toronto Seniors Strategy will be on issues that fall within the City's authority to plan, manage and deliver.

Service Planning Principles for an Age-Friendly Toronto

A service plan approach sets out key principles to guide future decisions regarding funding priorities and service improvements. These principles provide direction for the planning, management and delivery of services, initiatives, programs and investments for older Torontonians. This Strategy reflects four key service planning principles that guide City decision-making and priority-setting.

Principle 1: Equity

Older adults should have equitable access to services and programs.

The unique needs of Toronto's diverse older population should be met. In keeping with the City of Toronto's Vision Statement on Access, Equity and Diversity, older Torontonians should be treated fairly regardless of their race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, disability, citizenship, creed, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, same sex partnership, age, marital status, family status, immigrant status, receipt of social assistance, political affiliation, religious affiliation, level of literacy, language and/or socioeconomic status. The goal of the City of Toronto is to achieve access and equality of outcomes for all residents.

Principle 2: Inclusion

The social and physical connectedness of Toronto should be enriched by facilitating older adults' participation in city life.

Older Torontonians should have the opportunity to participate in and contribute to their communities. Intergenerational connections should be encouraged and social isolation should be prevented.

Principle 3: Respect

The contribution of older adults to the life and vibrancy of Toronto should be valued and respected.

The experience and contribution of older Torontonians to their communities should be recognized and reflected in the way they are regarded. Older adults should always be treated with dignity and should be made to feel valued, heard and appreciated.

Principle 4: Quality of Life

Older adults in Toronto should be supported so that they may enjoy a higher level of health and wellbeing.

Older Torontonians should be able to live healthy, independent, active lives. The City should consider the quality of services that it is providing to older residents that address older adults' unique and varied needs.

Who is an Older Adult?

There is no single definition of who is an older adult. Programs and services within the City and from other governments have different definitions reflecting different operational requirements. More importantly, our consultations confirmed that a strict definition of older adulthood is viewed as stigmatizing and does not reflect the reality of what being an older adult means. Older adulthood can easily include people in their fifties, while the eldest of Toronto's residents may be far more active and independent than many may commonly perceive.

In response to evolving experiences of aging, a global movement, led by the World Health Organization, is spreading across municipalities to move beyond strict definitions of older adulthood (WHO, 2007). Cities are developing "age-friendly" environments in which people of all ages, needs and capacities have accessible and inclusive access to programs and services.

The demographic analysis contained in this document adopts the WHO's age-friendly approach by defining older adulthood as a general stage of life rather than a specifically delineated age group. Data on people 55 years of age and older are used in the analysis whenever possible to provide a broad overview of the demographic diversity of older Torontonians. In other cases, available data limits demographic analysis to people 65 years of age and older.

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