When we use the phrase “design for all ages” it usually means “let’s include older people as well”. How did they get left out in the first place? The concepts underpinning universal design aim to overcome this division of ages. Many research articles address the issues, but community attitudes are slow to change. The Global Roadmap for Healthy Longevity is yet another publication promoting the need to be (older) age-friendly. It takes a global view with case studies and recommendations.
Chapter 5 of the roadmap focuses on physical environment enablers. These include housing, public space and infrastructure, transportation, climate change and digital access. There’s very little new information in this chapter, but it brings together international research for useful recommendations.
Collaboration is needed at all levels including non government and local community organisations, the private sector, researchers and families.
One of the key recommendations is taking a universal design approach and involving people in design processes. There is more emphasis on communities getting involved in the solutions. Strategic action plans for ageing societies exist in many countries, but few are heeded. That’s because they are viewed as being for a single sector or age group. Therefore collective action is needed.
The Global Roadmap for Healthy Longevity is not just about older people. It recognises that all ages need to be considered, for younger people will eventually get older. It is a comprehensive publication. Here is a sample of findings from Chapter five.
“Finding 5-1: Housing that encourages independence, social integration, and mobility is a key factor in older adults’ ability to realize healthy longevity, but the availability and affordability of this type of housing are limited, especially for those with limited financial resources.”
“Finding 5-3: Intentionally designed public spaces and built environments can play an important role in influencing healthy longevity. Creating opportunities for mobility, walkability, access to green space, and social engagement can enhance the lives of older people and reduce mortality and morbidity.”
Finding 5-4: Public infrastructure, such as sidewalks, bike lanes, and well-lit streets, can influence the usability of an area and adults’ perception of safety.”
“Finding 5-5: Safe and accessible transportation options can give older adults the opportunity to enjoy independent mobility around their community instead of avoiding social activities and becoming isolated and lonely.”
Information and communications technology
“Finding 5-6: Access to broadband internet is integral to many aspects of society. Low-income and rural households are especially likely to lack broadband access, which greatly influences their equitable access to other resources and their ability to work remotely and stay connected to social networks.”
Global Roadmap for Healthy Longevity is published by National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Global Roadmap for Healthy Longevity. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/26144. The full publication is available for download.