Building Block: An Enabling and Supportive Environment

Printable Version PDF

Click here to apply this building block to dementia.

Environment is comprised of a supportive social environment and an easily accessible built environment. An enabling and supportive environment ensures:

  • access to flexible programs, services, and supports
  • that the social environment promotes opportunities for meaningful participation by older adults, including those who are socially isolated
  • the social environment fosters safety and security, respects dignity-of-choice and reduces the risk of mistreatment, abuse, and neglect
  • the physical environment meets or exceeds current accessibility standards and that older adults can safely access and manoeuvre within built environments
Website Tips
  • In your community conversations, remember the five guiding principles and how they are important to consider when identifying your community/organizations strengths and areas for improvement.
  • Click one of the questions in the blue rows for a drop down list of tips and strategies.
  • For a real world example of the principles in practice, click the Success Stories icon at the bottom of the page.

 

Ensure Access to Programs, Services and Supports to Meet the Needs and Preferences of Older Adults

What programs, services and supports for older adults currently exist? Where are the gaps?

Tips & Strategies

  • Look at what has already been done by agencies such as the Local Health Integration Networks, local universities, Regional Geriatric Programs, Regions/City/Municipality (service maps, priority setting exercises, gap analysis, and environmental scans).
  • Complete a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis of your community
  • Examine how seniors move around the community. Determine if your services are closely located with other services such as housing, shopping, health and community support services, and other day to day businesses
  • Look at programs to help people stay in their own home in available for services: sidewalk clearing, home maintenance, transportation, meal delivery, in home exercise programs
  • Ensure respite programs (day, in-home and overnight) are available
  • Support/coordinate a variety of services offered to promote, restore, and manage health issues and concerns related to aging (e.g. vision care, dental care etc…)
How do you accommodate the individual needs in programs, services or events?

Tips & Strategies

  • Make certain that a wide variety of services and options are available
  • Ensure that services can respond to the changing lifespan needs of older adults  
  • Make sure community support programs are available to meet the needs of socially isolated older adults (e.g., friendly visitor programs)
  • Consider supports provided that enable older adults to access services (out-reach/home services, transportation options between services/locations, delivery services)
  • Talk to older adults about the accessibility of your programs, services, or supports
  • Determine if transportation for medical, social, and other appointments is available within the community and to neighboring areas (both rural and urban)
  • Examine service policies and procedures for flexibility and responsiveness
  • Consider how individual requests are received/acted upon
How do policies and practices respect the rights and choices of older adults?

Tips & Strategies

  • Include older adults in the development of policies and practices
  • Respect preferences and choices (e.g. right to live at chosen location with risk)
  • Avoid over protecting older adults
  • Put in place policies that ensure freedom of choice
  • Ensure that older adults can receive appropriate employment benefits
What methods/programs/services are in place to support or subsidize older adults with limited incomes?

Tips & Strategies

  • Offer discounts or other incentives for older adults
  • Ensure staff is aware of tax credits and other available financial supports and assist older adults to access supports, make necessary contacts, fill out forms, etc…
  • Use funding agencies such as Ontario LHINs, New Horizons, Trillium, Ontario March of Dimes (home and vehicle modifications), Veteran Affairs, Veteran Independence Programs
  • Consider government or agency subsidy – Canadian Mortgage Housing and Corporation (CMHC), Assistive Devices Program
  • Allow attendants or supporters of persons with disabilities to participate free or at a discounted rate
  • Connect with other services clubs that provide financial support  (Legion, Rotary Club, Lions Club)
  • Subsidize program costs through fundraising

Create a Safe and Secure Social Environment

How do you make the environment welcoming and comfortable?

Tips & Strategies

  • Unlock front doors to provide easy access
  • Have a person to greet individuals as they enter
  • Have a person answering phones rather than an automated system
  • Include appropriate decor within a space. Keep the location well maintained
  • Promote scent-free environments. Indicate that the space or event is scent-free
  • Ensure the environment is welcoming and encourages people to feel comfortable asking for support. Let them known support is available and create opportunities for them to ask for and receive help.
How do your programs, supports, events and services promote participation that is meaningful to older adults?

Tips & Strategies

  • Provide a variety of opportunities/options for people to engage within their community throughout the lifespan (e.g. a variety of housing and transportation options, various volunteer positions)
  • Community support services are in place to meet the needs of older adults who are socially isolated
  • Deliver products and services to the homes of older adults
  • Address barriers preventing access or participation
  • Provide outreach services including delivery services (groceries, medication) and on-line options (e-learning)
  • Promote or implement telephone support, buddy systems, sharing of transportation
  • Allow opportunities to develop personal skills
  • Provide volunteer positions for older adults. This provides opportunities to give back to the organization and community
What programs or services do you provide that offer opportunities for older adults to interact with others?

Tips & Strategies

  • Consider informal settings such as coffee areas, mall walking, churches, Legions, Seniors centres
  • Offer day outings and bus trips
  • Have an older adults write a column in the local newspaper
  • Hold a seniors day or other initiatives which encourage meaningful participation of older adults
  • Offer opportunities for isolated older adults who are isolated to be involved in community events
  • Contact other agencies to get tips on how to get older adults more involved
How does the environment promote and support social participation?

Tips & Strategies

  • Provide programs and spaces where older adults can meet with others (drop-in centres, congregate dining halls, round tables in a lounge area)
  • Ensure lobby areas have opportunities for people to interact
  • Offer recreation and leisure opportunities
What programs, resources and policies are in place to help prevent and respond to abuse, crime or scams?

Tips & Strategies

  • Implement protocols to prevent and respond to abuse or offensive behaviours
  • Provide information/education on elder abuse prevention and how to respond to elder abuse
  • Use the toolkit available for the development of policies around Elder Abuse- http://www.culture.gov.on.ca/seniors/english/index.shtml
  • Learn more from the Ontario Elder Abuse Prevention Network http://www.onpea.org/
  • Implement strategies that prevent loitering or misbehaviours in public settings
  • Display information that promotes safety and positive treatment of others.
  • Develop networks to let people know about scams/elder abuse such as the Halton Seniors and Law Enforcement Together (SALT) program and Halton Elder Abuse Prevention Committee
  • Inform public about strategies to protect against scams through bulletins, emails, etc
  • Introduce a fraud education program in the community

Create a Safe and Secure Physical Environment

Meet or exceed accessibility standards and practices

What actions ensure that your organization/community is physically accessible to older adults?

Tips & Strategies

  • Recruit older adults to identify barriers and develop solutions to improve access to your environment
  • Complete a walkthrough of your environment using one of the many checklists available
  • Look at some of the information available on walkability [http://www.canadawalks.ca/ http://www.walkon.ca/]
How do you use the resources available to assist your organization/community in meeting legislated accessibility standards?

Tips & Strategies

Ensure access to buildings/spaces is accessible and safe

How do older adults travel to and from programs/services?

Tips & Strategies

  • Ensure public transit is convenient, coordinated and allows older adults to request stops within the route when safe to do so
  • Provide information on transportation options (e.g. public transit, volunteer transportation programs, taxi, accessible transportation) in a variety of ways to help older adults access services more easily
  • Provide accessible vehicles as needed (lowered floors, proper hand railings, low steps, wide and high seats)
  • Provide transportation services within the community as well as between neighboring communities and rural areas
  • Ensure costs of transit services are displayed and consistent
  • Provide dedicated transit services such as shuttle vans for shopping, trips, special events etc.
  • Display appropriate signage on all vehicles transporting persons with disabilities
  • Clearly identify and ensure that priority seating is available and enforced
How safe and accessible are parking areas and drop-off zones?

Tips & Strategies

  • Ensure parking is well maintained, affordable, and near building entrances. A drop-off zone can also be helpful
  • Position designated parking for persons with disabilities in a variety of easy to reach location
  • Install a two way communication system for support
  • Ensure there are safe, clearly marked pedestrian routes from the parking area to the building entrance
  • Ensure lighting in the parking lot is adequate for all individuals including those with vision impairments. Colours, patterns and signage should be visible
  • Supply adequate wheelchair parking spots for the group that you serve (this may exceed minimal standards)
  • Apply an efficient snow removal program and salt walkways to prevent slipping
  • Trim hedges regularly to ensure safety of pathways
  • Maintain smooth surfaces to prevent falling and allow easy access by those in wheelchairs
How do you ensure that people can move safely and easily outside of building/spaces?

Tips & Strategies

  • Learn more about other initiatives in your community
  • Build curb cuts with appropriate slopes and pitch
  • Provide ramps made with non slip surfaces
  • Provide doors that are easy to locate and use (appropriate width and easy-to-find automatic open buttons)
  • Use mats that are level with the ground and do not create a tripping hazard
  • Ensure canopies and other shelter have adequate headroom
  • Supply handrails and supportive devices (stairwells, ramps, benches, chairs, washrooms, hallways)
  • Ensure sufficient seating is located in convenient locations for individuals to rest
  • Use seats that have arms rests to support sitting and standing, are at the proper height (not too low) and easy to get in and out of
What emergency and evacuation procedures are in place to ensure the safety and security of persons in case of emergency?

Tips & Strategies

  • Develop an evacuation plan for all staff/clients at each location. Include information about accommodations are made for persons with disabilities
  • Provide Older Adults with information to assist them to prepare for emergencies/evacuations
  • Ensure main exit routes are easily marked and accessible
  • Use fire alarms that have both visual and audible signals
  • Ensure fire exit doors are easily distinguishable from other doors
  • Ensure fire hose cabinets and extinguishers contrast with surroundings (color, texture etc)
How do you ensure indoor and outside signage assists people to find their way?

Tips & Strategies

  • Use signage for directions/information outside and within the building
  • Ensure signs are easy to read and meet user needs (large fonts, dark lettering on light background, tactile lettering for touch reading)
  • Place signs to meet user needs (eye level for  persons using wheelchairs, within reach for persons with vision disabilities, located in prominent places such as floor grading changes)
  • Use International Symbol of Accessibility
  • Use universal hearing disability symbols where equipment is available (e.g., TTY)
  • Apply appropriate pictograms wherever possible (e.g., on washroom doors)
  • For more information see the Halton Guidelines for Communicating with Seniors http://www.region.halton.on.ca/scs/seniors/ESAC/highlights.htm

Ensure people are able to access and use buildings/spaces safely

How do you ensure easy flow/movement within buildings?

Tips & Strategies

  • Provide information to guide individuals (help desks, telephones and/or signage upon entering the building)
  • Ensure there is always a person nearby to assist
  • Provide public telephones, coat racks and display shelves that are accessible and useable by patrons with various disabilities (e.g., wheelchair users, persons with low vision or hearing loss)
  • Also see tips on appropriate signage for older adults
How can people get assistance if needed?

Tips & Strategies

  • Ensure proper signage for assistance or emergency areas
  • Provide electronic buttons or bells in accessible areas for people to call for help
  • Provide a telephone number for people to call ahead for special assistance requests
  • Communicate to your customers what assistance you are able to provide through a variety of methods: by telephone, print, etc…
How does the design of the space cater to the needs of older adults?

Tips & Strategies

  • Ensure spaces are accessible and safe (ramps, accessible elevator, railings etc.)
  • Check regularly for obstructions, protruding objects or tripping hazards
  • Clearly mark accessible routes with a bright colour; use a cane-detectable floor finish, or a guard
  • Make sure amenities such as telephones, reception areas, drinking fountains are available and easily accessed by all individuals, including persons with disabilities
  • Develop a regular maintenance schedule with a process to follow up on areas that need further work/improvement
  • Ensure walls, ramps and staircases have a smooth, non-glossy and non-abrasive finishes
  • Use a door colors that contrasts with surrounding walls
  • Use floor finishes which are non-slip in both wet and dry conditions
  • Ensure that changes in flooring surfaces are well marked (e.g., carpet to tile)
  • Provide adequate chairs and benches that have arm rests, are stable and the proper height (not too low)
  • Provide doorways, hallways, waiting areas, and serving aisles that are wide enough and sufficient in all areas of the building
  • Provide counters at appropriate height for all individuals including those who use mobility devices such as wheelchairs, scooters
  • Limit  the size and location of wall mirrors to lessen confusion
  • Ensure washrooms meet appropriate accessibility standards (including those for wheelchairs and scooters) and are cleaned, maintained, and located on every floor
  • Provide ‘single access’ and uni-sex washrooms for persons who need privacy as well as ‘family washrooms’
  • Ensure elevators are accessible and meet standards and the needs of older adults (reaching poles to push buttons, level platform, space, good timing of doors opening and closing, wide enough, have Braille signage, controls that can be easily reached, a two-way emergency call system or telephone provided, audible signals that announce floors and up/down direction of elevator)
  • Provide carpeted floors which have a firm and dense construction on which  individuals can easily walk
  • Ensure floor grading is as level as possible, without steep and inconsistent declines. Use appropriate signage for any significant changes in floor grading

 

Success Stories

Click here for website tips.
Click here for tips and strategies.