Whenever the subject of aging cities comes up, invariably the term “age friendly” pushes in front. I take that phrase openly to mean – not just for older people. In 2007 the World Health Organization (WHO) published a checklist of essentials for age friendly cities and naturally in its reading it amplifies the needs more specifically of older people. There are 8 categories within this document. All of them make sense.
My concern is that considering all the good intentions of organizations like the WHO, Seniors Advocacy groups and Aging Councils, the aging cities conversation sounds sometimes non-inclusive. Age friendly cities are everybody’s experience. Maybe it’s been done, but what I would love to see is this WHO list handed to groups of grade school and high school age, and have them turn it over, with an eye to not only appreciate the needs of older people; but to insert how they see themselves as younger people benefiting from these same features. Yes – bring in the grandparents too. This is the inter-generational power of city design I envisioned last week.
Meanwhile down at street level last week, as I walked around town, I noticed many examples of poorly designed sidewalks; for example where raised metal grates and round metal plates punctuate every five yards. During and after a rain these get slippery. Trust me you don’t have to be older to take a flip. Ask the young woman I saw in front of me take one first before me!