Be age-friendly to be sustainable

Four older men wearing hats sit at a square table in the park.The key to sustainable cities is to make them age-friendly, to work collaboratively across city departments, and to engage all ages in consultations. This is because older people risk exclusion from social and economic life if we keep designing cities in the same way. 

The policy brief on ageing from the UN group in Europe focuses on housing, access to green and public spaces, and transportation. The policy brief also looks at how smart technologies can be leveraged to improve the situation.

Mainstreaming ageing, gender, disability and human rights in urban planning is the key. Involving all generations for a people-centred approach, and not working in silos are also important. These are all elements of a universal design approach.

The document links with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG 11). That is, to make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable. It also references the WHO Age-friendly cities and communities guidelines, and the New Urban Agenda

Each section on housing, green spaces and public places, and transport address the issues in more detail. A lengthy document which should be of interest to policy makers and urban planners working at all levels. 

The policy brief is from the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe. There are more policy briefs to browse on their website. 


Age-friendly meets sustainability

A street scene showing tall buildings, some traffic and people walking on a pedestrian crossing.Is there a link between an age-friendly urban environment and sustainability? This is a question posed by a group in Hong Kong. They carried out an on-street survey to see what the links are, if any. They claim that “The empirical results suggest how the aging‐friendly factors have impacted the economic, environmental, and social sustainability to a certain extent”. Among other results, outdoor spaces were not found to be a planning factor, but community support and health services were. The abstract below gives more detail. This paper shows how it is possible to bring different disciplines together rather than having them compete for attention. That is also apparent when taking a universal design approach to planning. 

The title of the article is “Does aging‐friendly enhance sustainability? Evidence from Hong Kong” You will need institutional access for a free read. 

Abstract: The aging population is one of the demographic changes in the 21st century. World Health Organization defines an age‐friendly city as a place that has an “inclusive and accessible urban environment that promotes active aging.” It receives considerable attention in the field of gerontology and contains important aspects of sustainable urban development. Unfortunately, there have not much research that addresses the relationship between aging‐friendly and sustainability. There is a need to modify the market mechanism to achieve environmental objectives while striking a balance between social and economic considerations. This paper aims to empirically examine the integrated relationships between the dense urban environment and the social and emotional needs of the elderly in the Hong Kong context. The on‐street survey was conducted in eight districts in Hong Kong to collect the opinions about aging‐friendly criteria and sustainability indicators. It utilizes principal component analysis and multiple regression technique to unveil the mask of their intrinsic relationship. The empirical results suggest how the aging‐friendly factors have impacted the economic, environmental, and social sustainability to a certain extent. Notably, two key findings were revealed from the empirical results. (a) “Outdoor Spaces” is consistently found not to be a planning factor that can enhance three types of sustainability, irrespective of the age groups in Hong Kong; (b) “Community Support and Health Services” is regarded as a significant factor, with the exception of economic sustainability (age group ≤60).

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