Insights from Three Ontario Communities

The three snapshots of communities show the impact of population aging at the local level and how communities in Ontario are responding to the demographic challenges. Community snapshots were developed in Hamilton and Peterborough.  A third snapshot provides similar perspectives on two Toronto agencies: WoodGreen Community Services and Thorncliffe Neighbourhood Office. While each community and agency has a different local environment and service system, they face similar issues and opportunities.

Shared View of Current Service System
  • NFPs described the system as being of good quality with a strong mission focus but piecemeal, fragmented and incomplete. 

Challenges in Planning
  • Communities Experience Population Aging Differently. Each community needs to respond to changes with a local strategy that fits the environment, structure and culture.
  • Business as Usual Won’t Cut It because the senior-serving NFP sector cannot meet the demands for increasing volume and different types of services. Stakeholders talked of the need for transformational change, to use infrastructure differently and to learn from service models in other countries.
  • Efforts to Plan are Slowly Improving despite the lack of formal sector wide planning. Both Hamilton and Peterborough are developing more formal community planning tables to engage a broader range of stakeholders. Other stakeholders, like the Local Health Integration Networks (LHINs), have played a strategic role in planning for health related services.  
  • Ongoing Challenges to System and Service Planning include limited data and information on older adults and the local service system; increasing diversity of the older adult population; and, the diversity, scope and size of the sector that serves older adults.

Barriers to Action
  • Acting is Harder than Planning and implementing community priorities is challenging, particularly for collaborative community driven processes without strong leadership.
  • NFPs work in a complex system and funders can be more responsive to this complexity, while still maintaining a high level of accountability and transparency. Funders can also be supportive of locally determined priorities.
  • Lack of Capacity Will Limit Response. The sector needs to address volunteer and workforce aging, succession planning and internal capacity issues.

Balancing Many Competing Service Priorities
  • Health Care is Important But it Isn’t the Only Priority was an underlying message in the focus groups and interviews. NFPs view the current system priorities as out of balance; with more attention needed for prevention and wellness, socialization and overall quality of life.
  • Transportation is a Key Priority for Communities. Accessibility and the location of services are critical for older adults in both rural and urban communities.
  • Diverse Needs Complicate Priority Setting including diversity related to age, health status, geography, language, ethno-cultural background, gender, sexual orientation, and level of ability.

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