How Will Cities Reach Aging Populations Equitably?

With an increasingly aging population world-wide, cities and towns are seeing the necessity of taking into consideration the special needs of this population. According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the population percentage of those aged 65 years old and over is expected to climb to 25.1% in 2050 in its member states. Cities in particular have large numbers of older inhabitants and are home to 43.2% of this older population. Factors such as equity, an accessible physical environment, and an inclusive social environment for the elderly are all important.

Senior citizens need to have access to information about the city’s infrastructure in order to be motivated to spend time in their neighborhoods and reduce their risk of isolation. The easiest way to do this is to keep them connected with mobile phones or smart watches. 

Some examples of age-friendly services from around the world include:

  • Access Map Seattle -an age-friendly, online travel planner offering customizable suggestions for people who need accessible or pedestrian-friendly routes. It shows the steepness of pedestrian footpaths and raised curbs, construction zones where sidewalks might be temporarily closed, and more;
  • The National Public Toilet Map – created by the Australian Department of Health and Aging, it provides information on over 19,000 facilities across Australia – including toilets, adult change, and baby change. Where available, it includes accessibility, opening hours, and amenities, such as showers; and,
  • Singapore is setting up digital community hubs throughout the island as part of its digitization campaign. The help centers will be located in community centers and public libraries and will provide digital ambassadors for one-to-one assistance regarding digital skills. The community hubs are open for all, but local authorities state that seniors and street vendors are the “immediate priority.

A good resource for cities seeking to better serve their elederly population is the WHO’s Global Network for Age-friendly Cities and Communities. It was created to foster the exchange of knowledge and experience between cities and communities around the world in their efforts to become more age-friendly.