skip to main content

Celebrating 75 Years of Innovation in Nursing Education and Research

Learn More | Watch Video

Back to Top

How to build more age-friendly cities

May 23, 2023
Rebecca Ganann

w_lightandlivelySource: Hamilton Spectator, May 19

The EMBOLDEN study, led by interdisciplinary researchers at McMaster, is an initiative making our neighbourhoods more age-friendly, Rebecca Ganann writes.


Transform the world to be a better place to grow older — a worldwide call to action. Globally, nationally, and at a local level, there is increased recognition of the importance of age-friendly initiatives that not only support older adults but recognize the rich and essential contributions they make to society.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has a new tool kit to help cities and communities worldwide become age-friendly. The United Nations is promoting a “Decade of Healthy aging” with key areas for action, including creating age-friendly environments, integrated care, and combatting ageism. Hamilton’s Plan for an Age-Friendly Community is addressing each of these areas for action. The EMBOLDEN study, led by interdisciplinary researchers at McMaster, is an initiative making our neighbourhoods more age-friendly.

EMBOLDEN includes diverse older adults living in Hamilton neighbourhoods, starting with neighbourhoods where there are health inequities, with a plan to spread to other communities in the future. People are included regardless of their current level of physical activity, health, mobility, and income. This new program aims to promote mobility, physical and mental health, and social participation. Socialization and connecting with the community are vital aspects of healthy aging. When people are strongly connected to their community, they are usually healthier.

EMBOLDEN was codesigned with older adults for older adults, together with health and social service providers. During the co-design phase, the team heard important messages from older adults not only about program content but also about the importance of creating welcoming environments and addressing equity and inclusion. For many community members, the pandemic has been an isolating and challenging time. Many people are keen to get out and reconnect or make new connections with others.

The EMBOLDEN program:

  • provides a sense of connectivity and belonging
  • offers opportunities to share experiences and contribute meaningfully to their communities and the lives of their peers
  • provides inclusive programming that celebrates older adults' strengths, and challenges assumptions about aging
  •  values aging-in-place and maintaining independence and quality of life

We recognize the importance of building new habits around physical activity and healthy eating. There is no one-size-fits-all approach. If we choose activities we enjoy, we are more likely to continue them. What is important is starting with small changes and building momentum to achieve personal goals. Small, consistent changes are what build momentum and have the largest impact to maximize our later years.

We are currently recruiting older adults from targeted neighbourhoods in Hamilton to take part in the study. Through a collaboration between primary care, public health, and the City of Hamilton’s recreation department, EMBOLDEN aims to enable age-friendly practices, integrate health and social care, and combat ageism. EMBOLDEN is building a foundation in key areas of Hamilton but was designed to be adapted to reach broader audiences of older adults in the future.

EMBOLDEN is a major program of research for the McMaster Institute for Research on Aging, funded through the Labarge Centre for Mobility and Aging, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, and the Public Health Agency of Canada. Our funders and partners have prioritized investments in research on aging and the importance of engaging older adults as partners in the design of a program to optimize potential for real-world impact.

Are you ready to join the movement to transform the world into a better place to grow older? Do you want a chance to maximize your later years? Now is the time to discover the age-friendly initiatives happening near you.

Rebecca Ganann RN, PhD is an Assistant Professor, School of Nursing, McMaster University. She co-leads the EMBOLDEN Study, is Scientific Director of the Aging, Community and Health Research Unit, Director of the Patient Expertise in Research Collaboration — Primary Health Care, and Co-Lead of the McMaster Collaborative for Health and Aging. For information on the Hamilton Council on Aging or to donate please visit

Related Faculty

Posted in Community

© 201​​7 McMaster University  |  1280 Main Street West  |  Hamilton, Ontario ​L8S 4K1  |  905-525-​9140905-525-​9140   |  Contact Us | Terms of Use & Privacy Policy