Thanks to advancements in medicine and technology, masses of people have never enjoyed longer lives. The average person worldwide can now expect to live 73 years, a dramatic jump from only 53 years in 1960.
Similarly, our cities are booming. By 2050, almost 70 percent of the world’s population will be living in cities. By 2030, one in six people will be 60 or older. Although it’s easy to assume that aging citizens might find life in the countryside more rewarding, cities are often better places for them.
There is a recognition now that as people age and their mobility reduces, they may no longer be able to drive, and their world shrinks; it is therefore much better to live closer to amenities in a higher density of peopleElizabeth Burton, professor of sustainable design and wellbeing at Warwick University, to The Guardian.
While every city will have different geographic, economic, and cultural landscapes, therefore, different needs for their aging citizens, the following items are universally poised to improve life for older persons.
Efficient Public Transport
Transportation is a vital aspect of everyone’s life, and it’s the lynchpin of socio-economic activities. But an accessible, affordable, and convenient public transportation network is particularly important for older adults to maintain independent and active lives. There’s evidence that the lack of transport availability contributes to declining levels of mobility at an older age.
As our cities continue to grow, it’s imperative that public transportation is disability-friendly. Some of the practices to contribute to this might include entrances thoughtfully designed with the needs of those with limited mobility in mind, clear signage, low floors, well-lit stations, as well as more walkable pavements.
There’s no place like home, and older adults tend to agree: According to the 2021 Home and Community Preferences Survey conducted by the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), the vast majority of older persons would like to stay in their current homes or communities for as long as possible.
Therefore, in age-ready cities, homes must assist senior citizens in leading fulfilling, dignified, and independent lives. These spaces must be universally accessible and be close to essential services such as healthcare, shopping, and social facilities.
Maxing on the Tech
From AI-powered robot nurses to healthcare apps, smart technologies are the most powerful tools to optimize cities for elderly residents and people with limited mobility.
There’s overwhelming evidence that smart cities that also invest in socially inclusive community infrastructures experience a myriad of economic, social, and health benefits for everyone — and aging persons are no exception.
Aging is a predictable and inevitable reality, but so is the sustained growth and development of technologies to make old age more comfortable and convenient. The ongoing digitization process in our societies offers a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for policymakers and urban designers to create long-lasting change for more inclusive cities.