The World Health Organization (WHO) have announced a new project to support and
encourage governments to develop and strengthen social policies in an ageing world.
Apparently, according to a United Nations estimate, the number of people over the age of
60 will double from the current 600 million to 1.2 billion by 2025 and again to 2 billion by
2050. Quite a lot of us! And mostly we live in environments that have not been designed with
our needs and capacities in mind. The policy which WHO has been advocating since 2002
would be one that provides opportunities for health, participation and security enhancing the
quality of life as people age.
WHO has now become more socially specific, and, assuming that many of not most elderly
people live in urban areas , have launched this project to encourage cities in several
countries, They justify the city engagement because cities have the economic and social
resources that smaller units might lack. (This assumes that central government grants them
sufficient financial support, which in the U.K. is not the case). In the developed world, three
quarters of older people live in cities, and although more people live in rural communities,
urbanisation is gradually reversing the picture. WHO argue that cities can give the lead to
other smaller communities.
In an age-friendly community, policies and services can help older people to ‘age actively’and
live in security, enjoy good health and continue to participate fully in society. Age-friendly
service providers, public officials, community leaders, faith leaders and business people
should anticipate and respond flexibly to aging-related needs and preferences and promote
their inclusion and contribution in all areas of community life.
The WHO initiative then identifies twenty five ‘features’ which would keep older people
fully involved in their communities. Launching the project WHO and partners ‘from all
continents’ will consult wih older people and then with community leaders and experts to
identify the major physical and social barriers to active ageing.
‘The ultimate aim in this
exercise would be to compile the results into practical Age- Friendly City’ guidelines that
could be used by cities around the world’. In the U.K. 12 cities have been identified, and
Leeds where we shall soon be living is one of them.
Reading this with a friendly eye there is nothing to disagree with, but is it realistic and who
is going to oversee this project? Older people have been involved in the project from the
outset apparently, but I don’t hear their voice. On a first reading it feels like good
intentions by people observing the scene but who are not part of it. More infvormation on
the internet – ‘Global Age Friendly Cities: A Guide’.