Re: Congratulation on your election; Advancing the wellbeing of Ottawa’s older adults
Dear City Councillor,
On behalf of The Council on Aging of Ottawa (COA), we would like to congratulate you on your recent election.
For over 47 years, the COA, a bilingual and inclusive advocacy organization, has worked tirelessly to advance the wellbeing of Ottawa’s older adults. The City of Ottawa has always partnered with and supported financially the COA and we look forward to continuing this privileged partnership.
The population boom, spurred by the city bringing in younger professionals and immigrants, but also by older residents who are living longer, brings challenges and opportunities to create the kind of city people want to grow older in and to address their unique needs as a designated age-friendly city. The World Health Organization recognized Ottawa as working to become an Age-Friendly City in 2011. Some 12 years later, it is critical to expand and renew our efforts to achieve this. The WHO defines an Age-Friendly City/Community as “one that provides supports and opportunities in the physical and social environment to enable older adults to be safe, healthy, and to participate in society.”
According to the 2021 Census, 30% of Ottawa’s population is over the age of 55 and represents the fastest-growing age group in Ottawa, with those over 85 and over 100 showing particularly significant increases. These statistics reinforce the importance of addressing the needs of a diverse and rapidly aging population across the City of Ottawa in urban, suburban, and rural areas. Improving the lives of Ottawa’s older adults requires continuous improvement in the areas of health and wellbeing, inclusion, income security, affordable and accessible housing, transportation, level of social engagement, and the development of literacy skills to access health and government information.
As you review the governance for the new term, the Council on Aging of Ottawa (COA) requests that you make a clear commitment and organize a structure that speaks to and with older people in Ottawa.
The Council on Aging of Ottawa recommends three ways to strengthen the City Council’s support and inclusion of older people:
- Appoint a Council member as an Advocate for Older Persons. Toronto appointed a Seniors Advocate in 2016 in response to a public call for leadership in addressing priorities for action with older residents of the city. This model has been effective in taking Toronto forward in a strategic and organized way. The Advocate for Older Persons would serve as a champion for and with older people, and ensure that the voices, rights, and needs of older adults are included in municipal decision-making.
- Strengthen the Seniors Roundtable to ensure diverse representation from organizations that work for and with older adults (which could be chaired by the Advocate for Older Persons).
- Adopt a strategic plan to strengthen the building of an Age-Friendly City that includes the involvement with a network of community organizations working with older residents and actions from the City to achieve the goals, as well as an enhanced Older Adult Plan.
To address those challenges, a delicate balance between the economic and social impact is required; in other words, avoiding hefty municipal budget increases and maintaining a proper offering of services for older adults.
The COA believes that innovative and quality service programs can be introduced in the future and remains committed to continuing our longstanding collaboration with city staff and elected representatives. Further to the City of Ottawa’s longstanding commitment to older adults through the Older Adult Plan, we count on your leadership to elevate older adults’ issues and your support for the appointment of an Older Adult Advocate by Mayor Sutcliffe, thus ensuring the voices of older adults are heard and included in government decision-making.
Again, congratulations on your election and we look forward to working with you in the coming years.