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Conceptualizing Age-Friendly Communities*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  12 July 2011

Verena H. Menec*
University of Manitoba
Robin Means
University of the West of England
Norah Keating
University of Alberta
Graham Parkhurst
University of the West of England
Jacquie Eales
University of Alberta
Correspondence and requests for offprints should be sent to / La correspondance et les demandes de tirés-à-part doivent être adressées à: Verena H. Menec, Ph.D. Department of Community Health Sciences S113 Medical Services Building University of Manitoba Winnipeg, MB R3E 0W3 (


On the political and policy front, interest has increased in making communities more “age-friendly”, an ongoing trend since the World Health Organization launched its global Age-Friendly Cities project. We conceptualize age-friendly communities by building on the WHO framework and applying an ecological perspective. We thereby aim to make explicit key assumptions of the interplay between the person and the environment to advance research or policy decisions in this area. Ecological premises (e.g., there must be a fit between the older adult and environmental conditions) suggest the need for a holistic and interdisciplinary research approach. Such an approach is needed because age-friendly domains (the physical environment, housing, the social environment, opportunities for participation, informal and formal community supports and health services, transportation, communication, and information) cannot be treated in isolation from intrapersonal factors, such as age, gender, income, and functional status, and other levels of influence, including the policy environment.


Sur le front politique et des lignes de conduite, l’intérêt a augmenté pour rendre les communautés plus « amies des ainés », cette tendance est restée constante depuis que l’Organisation mondiale de la Santé a lancé son projet « Réseau mondial des Villes-amies des aînés. » Nous conceptualisons les communautés amies des aînés en nous appuyons sur le cadre de l’OMS et l’application d’un point de vue écologique. Ainsi nous visons à rendre explicite les principales hypothèses sur l’interaction entre la personne et l’environnement afin de faire progresser la recherche ou de décisions politiques dans ce domaine. Les prémisses écologiques (par exemple, il doit y avoir une adéquation entre la personne âgée et les conditions environnementales) suggèrent la nécessité d’une approche de recherche holistique et interdisciplinaire. Une telle approche est requise car les domaines amis des aînés (l’environnement physique, le logement, l’environnement social, les possibilités de participation, le soutien communautaire formel et informel et les services de santé, de transport, de communication et de l’information) ne peuvent pas être traitées independamment des facteurs personnels, tels que l’âge, le sexe, le revenu et l’état fonctionnel, ainsi que des autres niveaux d’influence, y compris l’environnement politique.

Copyright © Canadian Association on Gerontology 2011

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The contributions of N. Keating, J. Eales, and V. Menec draw from a research project titled “Connectivity of Older Adults in Rural Communities: Health in Context” funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research Canada-UK New Dynamics of Ageing Research Initiative (2009–2011). R. Means’ and G. Parkhurst’s contributions are based on a research project titled “Grey and Pleasant Land? An Interdisciplinary Exploration of Older People’s Connectivity in Rural Civic Society” (Grant No. RES-353-25-0011). V. Menec is supported by a Canada Research Chair in Healthy Aging.


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