Comparing the age-friendliness of different countries

A woman is enjoying a cake in an age-friendly outdoor cafe.Older adults spend more time at home compared to other age groups and want to stay in their home as they age. Ageing in place is a broad concept. Attachment to home and place play a key role in the wellbeing of older adults. Consequently, remaining “in place” minimises early entry into supported accommodation. An article by Hing-Wah Chau and Elmira Jamei compares Australia with some of the work on age-friendliness in other countries.

The article covers familiar ground of the WHO Age Friendly Cities program and discusses three aspects related to the built environment. Public spaces, housing and buildings, and public transport. The title of the article is, Age-Friendly Built Environment 


The UK Lifetime Homes Standard eventually influenced the development of a mandatory code for accessible housing in the UK. The lowest level of the code is now considered too low and will be upgraded. 

So far, the 2010 Australian Livable Housing Design Guidelines have failed to bring about change to the building code. However, in April 2021, state and territory jurisdictions agreed to a basic level of accessibility in all new homes. However, two states have specifically refused to act on this. For more on this check out the posts in the Housing Design Policy section of this website.

The European Homes4Life scheme covers more than building design. It covers physical, outdoor access, economic, social and personal domains for new and existing residential buildings. Affordability, privacy, dignity and connectivity are all considered. Also included is smart technology.

Public spaces and transport

A older woman in a red dress cycles along a path towards the ocean. Outdoor spaces need to be welcoming of older people and encourage social interaction. Mixed use developments, housing diversity, pedestrian safety and natural landscapes all get a mention.

Walkable neighbourhoods and frequent, reliable and safe transport options are key to ageing in place. Affordability is also a consideration for people with minimum incomes. Cycling is also part of the active ageing agenda. However, car ownership is the best mobility option for people living in outer suburbs.

The article compares some of the work in other countries with Australia rather than offering something new. However, the conclusions draw attention to an important point. The design and planning of the built environment needs to hear the voices of those often excluded. Co-design collaboration is worth the time taken, and should be extended to other decision-making processes that affect their neighbourhoods and ability to remain active. 

Dr Hing-Wah Chau presented a paper at the 2021 Universal Design Conference in Melbourne. The topic is about introducing students to universal design through community design studios.

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