Older people and the smart city

The term “smart city” refers to the way local authorities use digital information to make planning decisions and create solutions. But is this linked to the real lives of older people and the notion of age-friendly cities? According to UBANAGE, a European project, not enough data is collected on people aged over 65 years.

Time to develop smart city technologies that account for older people so that policymakers can inform their decision-making with evidence from older people.

Three older women are sitting on a public seat overlooking some housing in the distance.  Older people and smart  cities.

Researchers found current data sets inadequate for analysis of older populations. One of the reasons is the need for the privacy of personal data. Here we see the dangers of trying to develop algorithms and simulation to solve problems. This is where co-creation enters the picture. Older adults, public servants and other stakeholders worked together to test solutions for addressing the needs of older people.

The title of the research paper is, Older people and the smart city – Developing inclusive practices to protect and serve a vulnerable population. The term “vulnerable” is overused in relation to older people and feeds into stereotypes. Many older people are still active in the workforce and no more vulnerable than younger cohorts.

What is a “Smart City”?

Smart city graphic showing silhouetted city outline showing links to homes, factories, offices, transport and other city services.

What is a smart city and is it different from other cities? Smart cities use digital technology and data to improve decision-making and quality of life. The aim is to gain a better understanding of current conditions and forecast future changes. The data are also used to improve city functions and create solutions. But how does it work?

More is explained in an article titled, Smart City Design Principles. For a city, town or community to become smart it needs connected technology. Smartphones, sensors and Internet of Things devices connect to the Internet and each other and share the data they collect with city staff. Managers use various applications to take this data and turn it into information they can use. This can have a huge impact on urban development and planning.

There are four key elements:

  1. Quality encompasses liveability, environment, and quality of life (which should include accessibility and inclusion).
  2. Residential Construction focuses on addressing the needs of current generations without negatively impacting future generations.
  3. Capacity is about natural and human resources – population distribution, water, etc.
  4. History and Environment is about achieving cohesive regional development, traditional practices and archaeological zones. 

Anyone interested in understanding and applying the elements of the smart cities framework will find the article useful.


A smart city should embrace the concept of sustainable growth, as it is an urgent need, and we cannot hesitate in coping with precious natural resources and plunge into crisis.

To make the city run as a smart city, several things should be included in the situation. In the long term, smart city visions that are inclusive, pluralistic, and citizen-centric, focused on developing services and resolving local challenges, would be the most effective and cost-efficient.

They are most likely to avoid potential issues by strengthening both physical facilities and amenities, as well as the city’s sense of culture.

Population ageing and smart cities

An article in The Conversation challenges the idea that older people are a problem and a burden. Apart from being an ageist proposition, it does little to change matters. When we talk of “empowering older adults” to engage in active ageing, who took the power away in the first place? Was it the advent of secluded congregate living that seduced older adults into feeling “secure”? Or was it something else? Regardless, research continues on ways to make people “feel capable and safe”. 

The article in The Conversation begins with older people “need help and encouragement to remain active as they age in their own communities.” It is not clear why this is specific to older people. The article continues to explain how a city can provide digital infrastructure for the local information older people need. Three solutions are proposed for keeping older adults, indeed everyone, active and healthy:

  • Replace ageism with agency for improved quality of life.
  • Connect to smart city data to get the right information.
  • Include co-design in planning for greater participation and inclusion.
An older man rides his bicycle along a street. In the background is a brightly coloured mural.

A previous post on Ageing in neighbourhood rather than retirement villages reports a similar approach to population ageing. 

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