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Why Should Cities Become More Age-Friendly?

Prepare cities and communities for demographic change

Population ageing is one of the biggest social transformations in the 21st century. Between 2015 and 2050, the proportion of the world’s population over 60 years will double from 12% to 22%, and is expected to is expected to total 2 billion. Of these, 434 million will be over the age of 80. By 2050, older adults will have outnumbered all children under the age of 14.

Most of today’s adults and children will be ageing in cities. Adapting city and communities structures to the needs of a growing older population is sound preparation to meet the challenges of demographic change.

Age-friendly cities and communities can foster Healthy Ageing and reduce inequities

Cities and communities have a key role in enabling older people to live longer and healthier lives while fostering more productive societies.

WHO defines Healthy Ageing as the process of developing and maintaining the functional ability that enables well-being in older age. Environments that are age-friendly help to foster functional ability both by removing barriers and developing policies, systems, products and services that:

  • promote health and build and maintain intrinsic capacity across the life course; and
  • enable people experiencing capacity loss to continue to do the things they value.

Efforts to enhance functional ability can help ensure older people age safely in a place that is right for them, are free from poverty, can continue to develop personally and can contribute to their communities while retaining autonomy and health. When actions also take into consideration social exclusion and barriers to opportunity, efforts to build and maintain the level of functional ability can also serve to overcome inequities between groups of older adults.

Age-friendly cities and communities benefit all ages

Age-friendly cities design and adapt their natural and built environment for residents of all ages and different capacities.  An age-friendly community is barrier-free, designed for diversity, inclusive and cohesive. For example: accessible and safe road and transport infrastructure, barrier-free access to buildings and houses, and public seating and sanitary facilities, among others. Age-friendly environments enable people to stay active, connected and able to contribute to the economic, social, and cultural life in their community. Becoming age-friendly can make a city a city of choice for all generations – a great place to live, have a family and grow older in.

Enhance inter-generational solidarity

An age-friendly city fosters solidarity among generations within communities, facilitating social relationships and bonds between residents of all ages. Opportunities for residents from different backgrounds and demographics to interact and get to know each other facilitates community integration. This, in turn, allows older people to feel socially included and involved. Age-friendly cities also reach out to older people at risk of social isolation through personalized, tailored efforts designed to minimize any economic, linguistic or cultural barriers.