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In 2006, the World Health Organization developed a project on “Age-Friendly Cities”.  The project was completed as a practical guide in 2007, but the results are far from over.  The checklist of essential features of age-friendly cities includes developments in:

WHO's age friendly cities

Key Areas for Age-Friendly Cities [credit: World Health Organization]

  •  Outdoor spaces and buildings
  •  Transportation 
  •  Housing
  •  Social Participation
  •  Respect and Social Inclusion
  •  Civic Participation and employment
  •  Communication and information

So five years later, who is in the running of the most age-friendly cities?

Singapore: In 2010, Dr. Kang Soon Hock issued an update via the Institute of Policy Studies on Singapore’s progress. Singapore has improved in major areas including smoother transitions from hospital to homes, introduction of universal design of buildings and a neat crosswalk that gives you the option for more time to cross!

Brussels: Brussels was named the first Age-friendly city and has since began to offer a 65+ travel pass for travel within Brussels and communes (homes for the elderly) run dedicated services for senior citizens in their respective areas. 

Ljubljana: One of the many accomplishments of Slovenia’s capital has been the creation of assertiveness programs for medical service users intended to enhance their rights to social security and health insurance. Mayor Zoran Jankovic also plans to improve transportation and make Ljubljana “the cleanest city in Europe.”

New York:  In 2009 the New York Mayor’s office together with various city departments came out with 59 initiatives that would enhance city living for older citizens. It was the first city to respond to WHO’s initiative.

Ireland’s Age Friendly Counties – The Ageing Well Network allows Ireland’s communities to participate in the development of caring communities.  It currently features eight age-friendly counties who all subscribe to WHO’s guidelines. CARDI (Centre for Ageing Research and Development in Ireland) issued a thorough report this month).

China is also making progress in improving its cities.  The Future City Initiative presented by Xuejin Zuo, (Tokyo, 2012) demonstrated some urban design concepts.  In August 2012, APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) will host a conference in Taipei on age-friendly cities and age-friendly economics to show-off some more plans.

In the spirit of friendly competition the Friends of the Elderly Group in Ireland is on the hunt for the country’s greatest grandparent.  Last year, Ireland started celebrating Grandparent’s Day as a way to honor the elderly. So on September 28th the Greatest Grandparent will also join Paddy Craddock, a 73-year-old marathon runner and  Maureen Armstrong, a 83-year-old mini-marathon participant, who are the country’s fittest grandparents.  The Group’s spokesperson Dermot Kirwan has called on all community leaders to encourage their local councils to sponsor a Grandparents’ Day event. “There should be a Grandparents’ Day activity in every town and village in Ireland,” he says.

Does your country celebrate Grandparents Day?

The elderly in Ireland are taking advantage of a senior helpline and staying connected to their community. The service began nine years ago and is now operating in 13 centers around the country.

One aspect of this service which makes it very unique is that it is peer-to-peer. The volunteers are people between the age of 60 – 92 and the callers are between the ages of 50 – 75.

Mary Nally, the Helpline coordinator, makes certain that the lines are open seven days a week, 365 days a year and “callers to the helpline are guaranteed to hear the voice of another older person at the end of the line.”

Over the years, the types of calls received have changed. It used to be that more elderly called in the winter months when the gloomy weather and holiday blues brought on feeling of depression and loneliness. But now the Helpline is seeing a 27% increase in calls during the summer.

Helpline volunteer Colm O’Connor explains that “in summer a lot of people are isolated as family are on holidays and that, coupled with the misery of the weather, has kept our volunteers very busy. Our volunteers are dealing with a lot of difficult calls about depression.  It is hard for callers because families are away.”

Services like Helpline in Ireland are essential as more elderly are choosing to age in place. It is important that elderly stay connected and have someone to reach out to in rain or shine all year long.

About this blog

IAHSA’s Global Ageing Network Blog was created because of you!! We got your message loud and clear – “Provide us with a quick and nimble communications vehicle so we can stay connected and create community across borders".

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Virginia Nuessle, Study Tour Director

Majd Alwan, Director, CAST

Alla Rubinstein, Program Administrator, IAHSA

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