Cities in the Time of COVID-19: How is the COVID-19 Pandemic Affecting Aging Populations?


  • Meghan Winters, Simon Fraser University
  • Rob Miyashiro, Lethbridge Senior Citizens Organization (LSCO)
  • Brenda Vrkljan, McMaster University
  • Laura Tamblyn-Watts, CanAge
  • Vanessa Campisi, City of Toronto

5 Key Takeaways

A roundup of the most compelling ideas, themes and quotes from this candid conversation:

1. COVID-19 is having specific effects on older adults 

Older adults have felt the effects of COVID-19 in profound ways. Access – to clear information, to assistance, to technology, to food and medication – has been a challenge for many. Moreover, the very new effects of social isolation are becoming more apparent. As cities move forward with reopening plans, many seniors are still wary of how to safely inhabit public spaces.

 2. We must make our communities more age-friendly going forward

As Laura Tamblyn-Watts explained, most seniors – over 90% – will never live in a long-term care facility. Building resilient cities to allow seniors to age in place is therefore essential. This requires considering how to make our public spaces – streets, walkways, and parks – safe for people across all ages.

 3. When rebuilding, we must focus on the most vulnerable

Behind closed doors, there are many seniors that are suffering. Some are still dying daily in care facilities in horrific conditions – indeed, it took the Canadian Armed Forces to bring this systemic issue to light in Ontario in May 2020. Seniors are experiencing housing instability, homelessness, and mental health challenges. Racialized seniors, isolated seniors, and seniors with disabilities face incredible inequity. Policy must focus on addressing the inequities in our systems and prioritize the most marginalized.

 4. We know the solutions for fixing our broken healthcare system

Our healthcare system was designed in a time with different care needs, and as such, it is necessary that we find ways to adapt to the future. Solutions have been proposed for many years, and we now need to implement them. Laura Tamblyn-Watts offered four major areas of reform: staffing, infrastructure, adequacy of care/interdisciplinary care, and model of care.

 5. Collaboration is essential for supporting seniors

The work does not stop with healthcare workers. Creating the best conditions for Canada’s seniors demands action across different orders of government and governmental agencies, community organizations, researchers, and advocates. We need to appreciate our interdependencies. Support for seniors is needed in all arenas, and must be targeted at all levels. Some community organizations have begun this process, including faith-based organizations, libraries, community centres, telecommunications companies, neighborhood groups, and more.

Publication Date: 
Healthy Aging CORE