The World Health Organization (WHO) released the first Global Age-friendly Cities Guide , timing it to the International Day of Older Persons.
The guide, which is based on consultations with older people in 33 cities in 22 countries, has identified the key physical, social and services attributes of age-friendly urban settings. Istanbul, London, Melbourne, Mexico City, Moscow, Nairobi, New Delhi, New York, Rio de Janeiro, Shanghai, and Tokyo are included along with many other regional enters and towns.
The cities that have collaborated in the WHO project are planning to address the barriers that have been identified, and many others are lining up to adopt the guide. Led by New York, other cities are exploring what makes cities more age-friendly for increasing older migrant populations. "Age-friendly cities benefit people of all ages, not just older people, and WHO is committed to disseminating and promoting the implementation of the Guide worldwide," said Daisy Mafubelu, WHO Assistant Director-General for Family and Community Health.
The guide is aimed primarily at urban planners, but also older citizens who can use it to monitor progress being made towards more age-friendly cities. At its heart is a checklist of age-friendly features. For example, promoting city walking and enjoying urban green spaces, an age-friendly city has sufficient public benches that are well-situated, well-maintained and safe, as well as sufficient public toilets that are clean, secure, handicap-accessible and well-indicated.
Population ageing is a firmly established trend; the proportion of people aged 60 in the global population is predicted to double from 11 percent in 2006 to 22 percent in 2050. At the same time, our world is growing increasingly urban: as of 2007, more than half of the global population are urban dwellers and by 2030 about three out of every five people in the world are expected to live in cities, said a WHO release. These trends are occurring at a much faster rate in the developing world. Currently, the absolute number of older people living in developing countries is about twice as large as that in developed countries. By 2050, some 80 percent of the world's older people will be living in less developed regions.
"Older people are concentrated in cities and will become even more so," said Dr Alex Kalache, Director of the WHO Ageing and Life Course Programme. "Today around 75 percent of all older people living in the developed world are urban dwellers- expected to increase to 80 percent in 2015. More spectacularly, in developing countries the number of older people in cities will increase from 56 million in 2000 to over 908 million in 2050." The Guide is already being used in several parts of the world to initiate age-friendly city development. Networks are being developed in Brazil, Canada, Japan, Spain, the UK, the Caribbean Region and the Middle East.
Some of the key features of an age friendly city include: Well-maintained and well-lit sidewalksPublic buildings that are fully accessible to people with disabilitiesCity bus drivers who wait until older people are seated before starting off and priority seating on buses Enough reserved parking spots for people with handicapsHousing integrated in the community that accommodates changing needs and abilities as people grow olderFriendly, personalized service and information instead of automated answering servicesEasy to read written information in plain languagePublic and commercial services and stores in neighbourhoods close to where people live, rather than concentrated outside the city A civic culture that respects and includes older persons.