Population Ageing and Urbanization: The Growing Need for Investment in Age-Friendly Environments
Population ageing is a global phenomenon that continues to challenge and stimulate conversation across all levels of government around the world. By 2050, the global population of people 60 years and over is expected to reach 2.1 billion, more than double what it is today. Alongside this unprecedented demographic shift rapid urbanization will result in about 70 percent of the world’s population residing in urban areas.
In order to ensure that the autonomy, dignity and functional ability of older people are protected in this everchanging landscape increased attention must be given to creating environments that are reflective and responsive to their needs, and help to foster inclusion and participation within society.
In a recent article entitled “Age-friendly city design: Identifying common opportunities across the world” the implications of an ageing population and increased urbanization on the development and design of the built environment are explored through a variety of international design projects and age-friendly initiatives. “The value of respecting, celebrating and applying the knowledge of older people to create rich and diverse communities” is highlighted as is the importance of ensuring that innovations are reflective of the local contexts.
As an example, in Japan, where population density is high within urban centers and is combined with the reality of a super ageing population, developers have been exploring a “compact city” approach. This approach encourages the development of residential and community facilities for older adults that are in close proximity to public transportation routes, creating greater opportunities for older adults to retain their independence, autonomy and ability to age in place.
Developers from Kempsey, New South Wales in Australia, are faced with a very different environmental and cultural context. In working to create a residential aged care facility for older aboriginal peoples elders from the community were actively involved in the design of the facility. It was imperative that the essence of spiritual beliefs and traditional customs were incorporated in all aspects of the design process including the selection of building materials and open spaces with ample access to nature.
Foundational to these approaches is the importance of identifying and leveraging “opportunities across the built environment to build resilience and strengthen communities”. This is further underscored by age-friendly environments as one of the four action areas of the UN Decade of Healthy Ageing as well as the continued commitment to the development and implementation of age-friendly environments through World Health Organization initiatives such as the Global Network for Age-friendly Cities and Communities.
To learn more about the role of age-friendly environments in fostering the health, well-being and participation of people as they age, contact IFA expert Ms Christine Young, Director of Community development for the City of Melville and active champion and participant in the Global Network for Age-Friendly Cities and Communities.
“Making [a] city age friendly makes it friendly for everyone,” – Christine Young, Director of Community Development, City of Melville