- The Geography of Aging: Preparing Communities for the Surge in Seniors
Despite the growing recognition of the role of neighbourhoods and communities in enabling or constraining successful aging in Canada and around the world, there has only recently been growing evidence of the relationship between successful aging and built environments. This book brings together approaches from gerontology, geography, and planning. The goal of the work is to introduce research on aging and planning to the many entities involved in preparing our cities and environments for the upcoming “surge in seniors” that is expected to last well into the 2050s. The book’s underlying premise, therefore, is that the experience of aging takes place largely in neighbourhoods and communities that are ill-prepared to accommodate this demographic change. By situating Canada’s experience within the context of gerontological and planning theories, as well as the process of aging at the global level, this book makes a valuable contribution to the interdisciplinary and intersectoral study of aging in place in Canada.
Geography of Aging is structured into four primary sections. Part One examines where seniors live in Canada, including definitions and a focus on differing approaches to examine aging, followed by a detailed explanation of where Canadian seniors live, and the their general movement patterns in terms of seasonal travel and retirement. By drawing on census data from 2001 and 2006, Hodge provides a number of charts and tables describing Canada’s senior population by age, ethnicity, family context, and location. Part One concludes with a discussion of how rural, urban, and suburban community contexts can enable or constrain general activity patterns of the elderly population. Part Two explores seniors’ daily and community lives from the perspectives of seniors themselves by identifying the personal and physical components that determine seniors’ activities and life spaces. It also discusses how these individual, daily activities are made easier or harder by the community in which seniors reside. For example, he discusses how a small town with a compact built form and good sidewalks might actually have a lower ‘environmental press’ than a larger city with a more sprawling form and poorly maintained infrastructure. Part Three takes a step back from individual experiences to present the historical evidence supporting the “seniors surge” and how that has, and continues to, impact Canadian communities. Hodge explains the ‘baby boomers’ and their effects on Canadian demographics and discusses how their activity patterns, housing preferences and demand for community support are likely to place a considerable strain on communities. Finally, Part Four proposes the adoption of a “senior’s planning perspective” in order to prepare our communities for the aging population. The text concludes with a discussion of those aspects of seniors’ everyday lives that should be included in a “senior-smart planning framework”. This includes understanding seniors’ activity patterns and declining mobility, changing living arrangements, gendered use of space, and growing ethnic diversity.
The author, Dr. Gerald Hodge, is a professor emeritus of planning from Queen’s University, and the author of Canada’s seminal planning textbook (Planning Canadian Communities, published by Nelson Thomsen, now in its fifth edition). That text has become the standard for introductory planning programs across Canada. He brings, therefore, a unique planning perspective to Geography of Aging in the examination of seniors in community and neighbourhood contexts. As a planner, Hodge routinely explores scale – from the individual, to the home, neighbourhood, community, city, region, and country – as well as the intersections of transportation, living arrangements, kinship, and social and cultural contexts. The book, therefore, is broad-ranging and presents theories of aging and communities, statistical evidence of demographic change, and life stories of individuals experiencing aging in particular community contexts.
It is these life stories that form one of the key strengths of Geography of Aging. Both within and at the end of almost every chapter are narratives linking the data and theories from the chapter to the real life experiences of an older person. By presenting these vignettes, Hodge draws the reader into sets of concrete experiences that...