Further to last week’s post, Age-Friendly Communities: Status Update, Halton Region, as promised I took a longer read of the recent 2018 WHO report titled The Global Network for Age-friendly Cities and Communities: Looking back over the last decade, looking forward to the next. For a brief historical reminder, the Global Network formed in 2010 as an evolutionary response to the 2007 publication of the WHO Age-Friendly Cities Guide.
As with any movement that builds its own opening framework, such as in this case with the well-accepted Age-friendly Framework (AFC), each community, or city in every country has adopted the model to its own design; and as a result a reboot is necessary to keep it relevant to people as times change and innovations, or sometimes distortions occur.
Not to add confusion to the story, this is where I should mention that the Age-friendly framework has also hooked itself to the WHO Global Strategy and action plan on ageing and health and another global initiative – the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development -adopted in 2015. Here there are seventeen goals (SDGs), one of which is good health and well-being.
Easy to get lost in the interconnected threads of this narrative, but this is where Dr. John Beard, Director of Ageing and Life Course – WHO, starts us off in his preface to the 2018 Global Network report: “Helping cities and communities everywhere to become age-friendly is critical if we want to achieve the SDGs and the Global Strategy.” As the report further recaps in the background on creating age-friendly environments:
“Urbanization and population ageing are transformative trends that are changing the way we live, work, and experience our urban environments throughout our lives and into older age… Age-friendly environments (such as in the home and community) foster healthy and active ageing by building and maintaining intrinsic capacity across the life-course…”
Those last few words are significant – across the life-course.
Often misinterpreted by anyone trying to understand the age-friendly concept, with its policies, systems or services, is that it is all just made for the old or a worse described nebulous group called seniors. While the age-friendly focus is inarguably, meant to improve and accommodate the needs of older adults, I think in large part, the reboot for the next decade on the age-friendly movement is in the reframing of the language.
This all in an effort to be more age-inclusive in the dialogue with upcoming generations who are themselves approaching or at the stage in their life-course, where for example, they increasingly serve in the role of caregiver. Engaging older adults at the grass roots level in the design of age-friendly communities has served the first decade well to an extent, but the next decade will need to include the voices of those who will be future beneficiaries of an Age-friendly 2.0.
An Age-friendly 2.0 would in my view, put more emphasis on inter-generational connectivity as more of the social issues like affordable housing, economic inequality and social isolation have fast become shared experiences. Of course, there are examples of this connectivity already evident but I think it needs to be articulated more directly in age-friendly communications and for that matter into the Age-friendly framework.
One cut in this inter-generational piece is highlighted in the Global Network report on page 11 where it is cited that in Loncoche, Chile, the community has “included inter-generational exchange as part of their county educational plan. Through this plan, programmes have connected older people with children in schools to help foster better connections between older and younger people, building positive social connections for all.”
The Global Network for Age-friendly Cities and Communities report serves as a compact connecting piece for those familiar with the origins of the movement as well as open a lens on where the gaps (opportunities) are, and ends naturally with a vision for the future. Considering there are so many turbulent world issues simultaneously at play with the continuous ageing population story, (from political to economic and environmental shifts), the age-friendly vision for the future cannot ignore this bigger picture.
Given that, with all the age-friendly, concepts, structures and design in place, more innovation, multi-cultural and inter-generational input will be even more important. So as the world spins, one message from two statements is worth remembering from the “how will we achieve success?” section (page 21) of this Global Network next decade looking forward report –
“…Understand who is benefiting and who is being left behind and make the Network more inclusive and ensure that nobody is left behind.”