Building connected communities for all ages: Moving from social exclusion to social inclusion

Pat Spadafora, Kaleidoscope Consulting, Canada
Margaret Denton, McMaster University, Canada

Theme: Primary health care
Format: Workshop

Submit an abstract today to the topic of Ageism, Age-friendly cities and communities, Primary health care, Long-term care and Older people and pandemics.

From May 2016 – April 30th, 2019, with funding from the Government of Canada’s New Horizons for Seniors Program, 7 organizations in Hamilton formed a collaborative to deliver innovative projects that addressed the social isolation of adults 55+ living in the greater Hamilton area.  The overall objectives were to measurably reduce rates of isolation, to build community capacity to more effectively identify, reach and connect isolated older adults and to prevent isolation in the future.  Federal funding support for the 3-year project was extended until December 31st, 2019.  During the 8-month extension, one objective was to serve an additional 500 adults 55+ who were experiencing or, who were at risk of experiencing, social isolation.  The extension also provided the collaborative with the opportunity to 1. expand knowledge dissemination; 2. to create tools/resources for use by organizations and individuals in Hamilton as well as potential adaptation by other communities and 3. to more specifically concentrate on sustainability plans.

Of particular note during this 8-month extension period was gradually shifting the narrative from social isolation to social inclusion, from responsive interventions to prevention and from a focus primarily on older adults to one that embraces multigenerational thinking.  Recognizing that external funding is not a given, sustainability was considered from three perspectives; funded, low-cost and no-cost solutions.

The rationale behind one low to no-cost solution that reflects this shift in our thinking is supported by research evidence that demonstrates that connecting generations mitigates against social isolation and reduces ageism (Cornell University and the University of Toronto, 2019).  With this and other related research in mind, a working group of the collaborative introduced an awareness and advocacy campaign called ‘Do You Know Your Neighbour?’ that integrated these key messages: building neighbourhoods for all ages results in healthy and safe communities; every individual, regardless of age, race/ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, abilities or other factors can contribute to their neighbourhood in some way and; connecting with people of all ages helps to prevent isolation and loneliness and combats ageism.

During this interactive workshop, the presenters will share their experience with the ‘Do You Know Your Neighbour?’ campaign, share these and other project resources with delegates and work collaboratively with delegates to explore adapting these resources and/or to create new resources relevant to their communities.  Finally, we will collectively explore other strategies for including older adults with individuals of all ages in the fabric of our communities. Every voice counts. We can no longer be silent.

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