Photo © Daniel Laflor

We can't avoid aging... but perhaps we can find better places to enjoy it?

More than one fifth of the world's population will be over the age of 60 by 2050, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). That's more than 2 billion people and triple the number of older adults recorded in 2000. In Canada, the number of people over the age of 65 will double by 2036, says Statistics Canada.

Despite some dire warnings about the "grey tidal wave" and the upcoming "burden" of an aging population, don't go looking for disaster. Statistics also show we're living longer and enjoying more years of vitality. Far from being a drain on society, older adults are more proactive about their health, they're staying in the workforce longer and keeping active in the community -- and they'll continue to do so with the right opportunities and support.

Enter age-friendly environments. By changing their policies, increasing opportunities for involvement, adapting the environment and even adjusting their attitudes, communities can reap the benefits of an active and engaged population.

"Older people are a vital, and often overlooked, resource for families and for society," said Dr John Beard, Director of the Department of Ageing and Life Course at WHO, in a recent press release. "Their contribution will only be fully realized if they maintain their health and if the barriers that prevent them engaging in family and community life are broken down."

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Elizabeth Rogers