Planning for Age Friendly Cities

This 2021 collection of academic articles, edited by Mark Scott, focuses on how to effectively plan for 'age-friendly’ cities. The articles included in the collection answer the key question of - how age-friendly are our cities? - and cover topics such as the place of ageing, design for older people’s wellbeing, accessibility and green infrastructure, designing intergenerational communities, and governing ageing, focusing on cities across the UK, Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore, and the Global South.

Date added 2 November 2021
Last updated 2 November 2021

This 2021 collection of academic articles, edited by Mark Scott, focuses on how to effectively plan for 'age-friendly cities’ - a concept put forwards by the World Health Organisation and growing in popularity across the world. The age-friendly cities concept comprises three key principles: active ageing (older people being able to actively engage in social, cultural, and economic aspects of cities and remain healthy); promoting cities as welcoming for all ages; and moving away from a negative focus on an ageing population being a 'burden’ on services; but considering the opportunities this population change can bring. As Scott explains in his introduction to the collection (p. 458):

Population ageing is a major global trend that is transforming urban economies and societies around the world. It is one of the most important demographic mega-trends with implications for all aspects of society. How we plan for the ageing of our population and of our cities, how we choose to address the challenges and maximise the opportunities, will determine whether society can reap the benefits.

The articles included in the collection seek to ask a crucial question: How 'age-friendly’ are cities? In doing so, they cover a range of themes relating to planning for age-friendly cities, in relation to cities in the UK, Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore, and the Global South, as summarised below:

The Place of Ageing, Rose Gilroy

  • Explores how the place dimensions of health and wellbeing have been further highlighted by the Covid-19 pandemic, including inequalities in these aspects.
  • Argues we must take advantage of this moment of reflection opened up by Covid-19 to affect changes, such as creating more intergenerational places rather than segregating older people away (e.g. into retirement villages).
  • There is a need to consider how older people are not a homogenous group in placemaking and planning practice, but also intersect with different raced, gendered, and classed-based inequalities to be taken into account with any initiatives.

Compact Urbanism and Older People’s Mental Wellbeing: Reflections from Hong Kong, Rebecca Chiu

  • Explores older people’s mental wellbeing in compact urban places, with a focus on Hong Kong.
  • Discusses the social and built environment attributes of cities that are conducive to older people’s wellbeing (e.g. in the context of people living with Alzheimer’s).
  • Argues that designing elderly-friendly neighbourhoods that reduce cognitive decline should be a key objective for urban plans.

Integrating Green Infrastructure with Accessible Design to Reduce Heat Stress on Seniors, Tony Matthews, Claudia Baldwin, Chris Boulton and Silvia Tavares

  • Examines the challenge of heat stress in the urban environment, which is a risk factor for older people, especially in the context of climate change, which can reduce liveability of a place.
  • Within the context of Australian cities facing this challenge, the authors explore the potential for green infrastructure (e.g. networks of green spaces and nature), to moderate extreme heat.
  • Finds that whilst green infrastructure can mitigate rising temperatures, poorly designed interventions can reduce accessibility and mobility of older people.

Designing Intergenerational Communities: Next Steps for Age-Friendly Cities in the Global South, Deepti Adlakha, Olga L. Sarmiento and Sharon Sánchez Franco

  • Explores the growing challenge of ageing cities within the context of the Global South, which is experiencing significant urban demographic changes.
  • The paper presents examples of intergenerational initiatives that have had positive impacts for older people in cities (e.g. around reducing social isolation).
  • It is observed how prejudices against older people can sometimes become embedded in urban planning in many cities, which instead prioritise young adults and working age families.

Governing Ageing, Forging Heart-Ware: A Singapore Perspective, Louisa-May Khoo

  • Examines governance around ageing planning in Singapore – a place which has experienced rapid demographic changes.
  • It looks at the paradigm shift around ageing planning and how it intersects with wider cultural values around having a deep understanding of how older people live.
  • It presents a range of initiatives where an age-friendly approach has been taken, including active ageing hubs, senior activity centres, and multigenerational apartments.