Making Heritage Community Centres Accessible for an Aging Population in Peterborough
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Heritage and accessibility are both important elements in Ontario planning but have often been viewed as opposing forces; heritage advocating for preservation and accessibility advocating for re-development. This is an increasing issue as the world’s older adult population, considered those 65 years of age and older, is predicted to double from 11% in 2006 to 22% by 2050 (Government of Canada, 2014; WHO, 2020). With a rising aging population comes a rising disabled population as over 46% of older adults around the world experience some form of disability (Agnello, 2019; United Nations, 2015). In response, age-friendly planning has become a priority for cities but does not often consider the over 13,000 designated heritage properties in Canada (Canada's Historic Places, n.d.; Schulte, 2017). This report will focus on the opportunities and challenges experienced by heritage community centres in their attempt to become more accessible. For the purposes of this report, heritage community centre means a municipally designated heritage property which provides a service to a community and serves as a community meeting place (e.g. museum, theatre, library, etc.). Heritage community centres have been chosen as the focus as they are beholden to the regulations of the Ontario Heritage Act as designated properties and are in need of accessible planning as their futures in communities rely on visitors using the physical space (Foster, 1997; Hayhoe, 2019). Therefore, heritage community centres are in the paradoxical position of having to redevelop in order to be preserved, serving as a testing ground for accessible heritage planning. This report examined the elements of heritage, accessibility, and aging within the context of Peterborough using example sites of heritage community centres that have begun to integrate accessibility. The research was guided by the following question: how can planners support heritage community centres in becoming accessible for Peterborough’s aging population?