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Age Friendly WA Toolkit

Last updated: 15/12/2015 4:34 PM
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This publication is based on the Vancouver Protocol, developed for the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Age-Friendly Cities Project Ageing and Life Course Program, WHO and the research project undertaken in Melville for the WHO Age-Friendly Cities Project, a partnership between the City of Melville and the Department of Local Government and Communities.


The Department for Communities (now the Department of Local Government and Communities), in partnership with the City of Melville, took part in the World Health Organisation's (WHO) Age-Friendly Cities (AFC) Project. The Western Australian Age-Friendly Communities approach builds on the Vancouver Protocol, the methodology developed for the AFC Project, and incorporates the Checklist of Essential Features of Age-Friendly Cities, contained in WHO's Global Age-Friendly Cities: A Guide, developed as a result of the AFC Project undertaken in 33 cities in 22 countries throughout the world.

The City of Melville took part in WHO's AFC project to increase awareness of local needs and gaps and to identify improvements to make their city more age-friendly. The AFC approach adopted a locally-driven and "bottom-up" approach that started with the experience of older people regarding what is, and what is not, age-friendly, and what could be done to improve their community's age-friendliness.  The knowledge and experience of public, private and voluntary service providers in the local community was then combined with the information from older people to provide a more complete picture of the community's strong points and barriers in regard to age-friendliness.

The City of Melville used the research findings in their community planning process and to develop the City's Age-Friendly Melville Strategy: Directions for Seniors.

What is an Age-Friendly Community?

An age-friendly community is one which:

  • recognises the great diversity among older people
  • promotes their inclusion and contribution in all areas of community life
  • respects their decisions and lifestyle choices and anticipates and responds flexibly to ageing-related needs and preferences[2].

An age-friendly community promotes active ageing which is "the process of optimising opportunities for health, participation and security in order to enhance quality of life as people age" (Active Ageing: A Policy Framework, WHO, 2002​).

In an age-friendly community, there is a culture of inclusion shared by people of all ages and ability levels.  Policies, services and structures related to the physical and social environment are designed to support and enable older people to "age actively", that is, to live in security, enjoy good health an​d continue to participate fully in society.  

An age-friendly community is one of the most effective policy approaches for responding to demographic ageing.  In June 2007, 17% percent of the Western Australian population was aged 60 years and over.  By 2041, nearly one in three Western Australians will be 60 years and over.  This demographic change is impacting on a number of regional areas at a faster rate than on the state as a whole.  In 2001, people 60 years and over made up more than 20% of the population in three metropolitan local government authorities (LGAs) and eight non-metropolitan LGAs.  By 2006 there were ten metropolitan LGAs with more than 20% of their population aged 60 and over, while the number of non-metropolitan LGAs with a similar demographic make-up had risen to 35.

Steps to Take to Find Out if Your Community is Age-Friendly

The steps involved in the age-friendly community process outlined below will assist your community to identify the age-friendly features, age-friendly barriers and suggestions for improvements in relation to their physical and social environment. The approach enables communities to see themselves from the perspective of older people to determine how they can become more age-friendly.

In summary the approach involves developing a brief community profile and holding focus groups with older people; carers of older people; and service providers.

1. Community Profile

Firstly, a brief community profile should be developed providing information such as:

  • number of residents
  • numbers and proportion of older people (60 to 74 years and 75 years and over)
  • social, ethnic and economic characteristics
  • housing type and tenure
  • distribution of public, private and voluntary services.

This information will provide a context for the age-friendly community project.

2. Focus Groups with Older People and Carers

Focus groups should then be conducted with older people and carers to investigate the age-friendly features; age-friendly barriers and suggestions for improvements in relation to eight topics:

  1. Outdoor spaces and buildings
  2. Transportation
  3. Housing
  4. Respect and inclusion
  5. Social participation
  6. Communication and information
  7. Civic participation and employment
  8. Community support and health services.

The suggested discussion questions are provided in Appendix 1.

A minimum of five focus groups should be held as follows:

  1. Older people 60 to 74 years, from a low socio-economic status area background[3]
  2. Older people 75 years and older, from a low socio-economic status background
  3. Older people 60 to 74 years, from a middle socio-economic status background
  4. Older people 75 years and older, from a middle socio-economic status background
  5. Carers (unpaid) of older people who are too disabled or frail to participate in a focus group.

Each focus group should consist of about eight to ten people. The gender composition of the groups should reflect the gender composition of the older people in your community.  Efforts should be made to recruit participants from a variety of sources.

Each group should also have a mix of people with no disabilities, mild disabilities and moderate disabilities, representative of the wide range of ability levels within the older adult population.  If your community has a significant proportion of older people from a specific cultural group, it is important to include people from these groups.  In some cases, it may be appropriate to hold a separate focus group for these people.

The carers must be providing direct support to an older person living in the local community who is too impaired to take part in the focus groups themselves.  The discussion questions for this group are based on the questions for older people (see Appendix 1).

If resources permit, it would be desirable to hold additional sets of focus groups.  For example, two groups of each of the five types of focus groups listed previously.
In order to determine the composition of the focus groups, people who express interest in taking part in the groups should complete a Participant Information Form (see Appendix 2).
The focus group participants should be provided with the list of the discussion questions before the group is held (see Appendix 1) to facilitate the discussion.  The discussion guidelines, containing the discussion questions and prompts, are provided in Appendix 3. The prompts are to be used to elicit further information after the discussion questions have been asked, only if required.

It is likely that each focus group session will take approximately three hours, including a short refreshment break.  Each focus group should be run by a trained facilitator, assisted by a note-taker.  During the session, the key points raised should be recorded by the note-taker on butcher's paper (or some other method that enables participants to view the information recorded) and displayed.  The sessions should also be tape-recorded.

3. Focus Groups with Service Providers

Finally, three focus groups should be conducted with the following service providers:

  1. Public service providers (e.g. local government staff)
  2. Private service providers and
  3. Voluntary (not-for-profit) service providers.

Each focus group should consist of eight to ten participants.  As for the method outlined for the focus groups with older people, the participants should complete a Participant Information Form (see Appendix 2) and be sent the discussion questions in advance; key points raised during the discussions should be noted and displayed during the focus groups; and the discussions should be recorded.  The discussion questions are again based on the questions for the older people (see Appendix 1 for the questions and Appendix 3 for the discussion guidelines).

4. Report

The age-friendly features, age-friendly barriers and suggestions for improvements for each of the eight topics discussed should be reported.  The report should present the overall findings and the results for each of the focus groups, comparing similarities and differences raised in relation to the eight topic areas discussed for the age-friendly features, age-friendly barriers and suggestions for improvement to make the community more age-friendly that were identified.

Specifically, the report should consist of:

Executive Summary: A brief overview of the research, presenting the main features of the community profile; a description of the participant sample and recruitment and selection; the main findings; and the main limitations of the study. 
Summaryof findings for:

  • Older people[4]
  • Carers
  • Public service providers
  • Private service providers and
  • Voluntary service providers.

Community Profile: A description of the community where the focus groups were held.
Methodology:A description of the recruitment and sampling procedures, and characteristics of the participants. 
Findings:Comparisons across groups, and between the older people and carers and the service providers.  Every topic covered in the focus groups, and all key elements (age-friendly features, barriers and suggestions) should be presented.
A description of the limitations of the study that influenced the results should be reported.

5. Prioritising Workshops

When the findings from the initial focus groups are analysed, the key themes and issues should be identified.  It may be beneficial to then prioritise the key themes and issues that have been identified.  One approach that could be used to prioritise the themes and issues is to conduct workshops, with the older people who took part in the initial focus groups, to prioritise the actions required to make the community more age-friendly.

6. Dissemination of Findings

It is important to keep the community informed about the research project findings and any subsequent plans developed, based on these findings.

7. Monitoring Implementation

The research findings, particularly the age-friendly barriers and suggestions for improvement, should be incorporated into a strategic plan.  Progress towards implementing the recommended actions should be monitored.  The older people involved in the project have the potential to become "Age-Friendly Ambassadors" and to be involved in monitoring progress towards the community becoming more age-friendly.

Appendix 1:  Discussion Questions

Questions for Distribution to Participants

Discussion Questions for Older People

Thank you for accepting to come to a meeting that will be held on (day and time) in (location) to talk about your (city/district/community).

Here are the questions that will be asked during the meeting. Please read them before coming and think what you may want to say about each one during the meeting.

Think about your positive as well as negative experiences in each area, and what improvements could be made.

1. Outdoor spaces and buildings

  • What is it like to step outside of your home to go for a walk in the fresh air, do errands or visit family or friends?
  • What is it like to go into buildings, such as government buildings or shops?

2. Transportation

  • Describe your experience using public transportation -- bus or train in your community.
  • What is it like to drive in your community?

3. Housing

  • What type of housing do you live in – house, villa, retirement village etc?
  • If your needs change, what are your choices for housing in your local area?

4. Respect and Inclusion

  • In what ways does your community show, or not show, respect for you as an older person?
  • In what ways does your community include, or not include you as an older person in activities and events?

5. Social Participation

  • How easily can you socialise in your community?
  • Tell me about your participation in other activities, like education, culture, recreation, or spiritual activities.​

6. Communication and Information

  • What is your experience getting the information you need in your community, for example, about services or events?  This can be information you get by telephone, radio, TV, in print, or in person.

7. Civic Participation and Employment

  • Tell me about your participation in voluntary work, if applicable.
  • Tell me about your experience with paid employment, if you are employed now or if you are looking for paid work.
  • Tell me about your participation in public community affairs, like community associations or local government councils.

8. Community Support and Health Services

  • What is your experience with the services in the community to help older people?


1. It was called the Vancouver Protocol in recognition of the generous support of the Government of British Columbia in hosting the first meeting of the AFC project partners. The purpose of the document was to guide country coordinators in planning the project generally to meet its objectives and in implementing the Focus Group Community Assessment of the Age-Friendly Cities project.   The Protocol was developed to ensure that the methods were applied appropriately and uniformly across all countries undertaking the Age-Friendly Cities project. 

2. Adapted from WHO's definition of an age-friendly city.

3. Socio-economic status should be determined by a combination of factors – suburb lived in, highest education level attained and housing tenure (whether a home owner or renter).

4. Summary of findings for older people from specific cultural groups should also be included if you conduct focus groups for specific cultural groups.


This publication is based on the Vancouver Protocol, developed for the World Health Organisation's (WHO) Age-Friendly Cities Project Ageing and Life Course Program, WHO and the research project undertaken in Melville for the WHO Age-Friend​ly Cities Project, a partnership between the City of Melville and the Department for Communities.

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