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Aging at home in the diversity of Montréal’s neighborhoods. An opportunity for innovation in urban planning?

Sébastien Lord, Athanasios Boutas, Chiara Benetti, Paula Negron-Poblete

Research Framework: The Age-Friendly Municipalities approach calls on Quebec municipalities to reflect on facilities and services that would allow their population to age inclusively and actively. The physical and functional attributes of the territory have a significant impact on the positive experience of aging in place. However, changes in the social mix of a neighborhood can add to these dimensions and impact the residential elders’ experience.

Objectives: This article aims to explore the experience of aging in place in the context of strong demographic changes brought about by past and present immigration. It questions how immigration can change the dynamics of aging in place and lead to forms of innovation to be considered in the management of urban diversity.

Methodology: A theoretical framework borrowed from environmental gerontology is used to analyze the interaction between seniors and the transformations of their living environment. A case study is proposed through focus groups conducted in 3 neighborhoods of the Montréal agglomeration marked by aging and immigration (Saint-Léonard, Cartierville, and Parc-Extension).

Results: Aging in place in one’s community is not a linear and stable experience. Population changes can lead to difficult residential experiences when the physical and functional configuration is not adapted to aging (Saint-Léonard), but also to positive experiences when it is more favourable (Cartierville, Parc-Extension). Structural demographic changes show the elders’ resilience in the face of a changing residential environment (Cartierville, Parc-Extension), as do the limits of their adaptation (Parc-Extension, Saint-Léonard).

Conclusions: Aging in place in the context of immigration show even more that elderly people are not a homogeneous group. The results call for a more complex examination of the residential environment at the neighborhood level, particularly the notion of aging in place.

Contributions: Neighborhoods can transform at a speed and in a dynamic where seniors from here and elsewhere can lose their grip. Theoretical models in environmental gerontology do not account for the dynamic nature of this scale of the home.