Age-friendliness across the lifespan: Considering youth and students

Undergrad friends circa 2005.

Undergrad friends circa 2005.

The City of Waterloo has been designated an age-friendly city by the World Health Organization (WHO). This means the city makes a dedicated effort to assess how it's doing to support older adults and make improvements that will better support people as they age. Although there are always improvements to make, this designation is something the city can be proud of. 

However, the term age-friendly is a bit confusing. It implies, at least it did to me at first, that our city is friendly across the lifespan. Yet, there is no focus on youth or students in this designation.

I started doing a bit more digging and found that youth and students can be involved in leadership at the city through the town and gown committee which "develops and enhances relationships, communications and policies among the universities, college, students, city, police and the community," the youth council, or the youth leadership development program.

As someone who has worked with youth directly and through research, I am interested in seeing a the city increase its attention on improving opportunities for more youth to get involved in city matters. That might mean some of the following:

  • Working towards becoming recognized as a youth-friendly community, like Cambridge.

  • Providing more up-to-date information about what is happening with the town and gown committee. I'd love to have a sense about what issues other than affordable housing have been discussed through this committee.

  • List the youth council on the Committees of Council page of the city's website. What is included and what is not included says a lot about what we value.

  • Explore the possibility of a youth seat on council, a topic I have been discussing with a post-secondary student in town.

  • Work with youth from different communities, for example LGBTQ+, Indigenous, youth of colour, those who are differently abled, and youth and students with lower incomes, to find ways that the city can be a better place for them to participate in and with.

What are some of your ideas for involving youth and students in the City of Waterloo?

Jen VasicComment