Better lighting, less trip hazards, improved accessibility for people with disabilities… age friendly universal design suits everyone, throughout the life cycle.
Population ageing has been described as the greatest challenge facing the developed world today. Across the globe we are seeing a shift in the distribution of population towards older ages and this has considerable implications for the way that society works, the services that will need to be provided and the relationship between young and old.
The United Nations has recognised this global phenomenon and the challenges it presents, noting that population ageing was one of the most distinctive demographic events of the twentieth century and remains a priority throughout the twenty-first century. “For the near future, virtually all countries will face population ageing, although at varying levels of intensity and in different time frames.”
So what does this mean? The shift in age structure, as more people live for longer, means that retirement, pensions and other social benefits, along with healthcare requirements, tend to extend over longer periods of time. In short, our society needs to plan for the needs of a much larger older population. This is not something that can wait. This is a pressing challenge that requires a thoughtful and comprehensive response. We believe that the Age Friendly Cities and Counties Programme is playing a key role in responding to this challenge.
How can the Age Friendly Programme meet this challenge?
The challenge for the future is:
“to ensure that people everywhere will be enabled to age with security and dignity and continue to participate in their societies as citizens with full rights”.
At the same time,
“the rights of older persons should not be incompatible with those of other age groups, and the reciprocal relationships between the generations must be nurtured and encouraged”
United Nations, 2001a, paras. 9 and 14.
And this is exactly what being Age Friendly is all about. Not only does this approach ensure that older people can live full and healthy lives, participating in and contributing to their communities, it also facilitates better relations between the generations. Most importantly, the priorities for an Age Friendly Programme are decided by older people themselves. It is not based on assumptions made by bureaucrats or service providers, it is based on first hand information from older people in the community.
Furthermore, in strained economic times the Age Friendly Cities and Counties Programme establishes ways of working that are more efficient, eliminate duplication of work, save scarce and valuable resources while at the same time providing more accessible and better planned services, improved and safer public places, and opportunities to socialise and participate in the community in a real and meaningful way.