We live in exciting times. The aging demographic in the U.S. and globally gives us a unique opportunity to redesign our cities and towns to be ready for that new reality. We have an opportunity to think big and put forward big ideas about what the places in which we live, work and play will look like 10, 20 or 30 years from now.
We should seize this moment to create communities where we can grow old, and where we want to grow old. That is why we created the AARP Network of Age-Friendly Communities, an affiliate of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) global network of Age-Friendly Cities and Communities. We want to support those big ideas, and share our thinking with others across the world doing the same thing.
Some of the solutions for our future are old ones, rejuvenated for new times, like walkable main streets, or building houses which you can afford and where you can walk to a store, or to the doctor’s office. Others are entirely new, based on technology and innovation of which our forefathers could only dream. The Internet, for example, can bring information and products right to people’s doorsteps. And what place is there for driverless cars in our future communities?
Making cities and communities age-friendly is one of the most effective local policy approaches for responding to the future needs of citizens. The age-friendly framework offers a structure for the people who run our cities to have a conversation with the people who live there. In the 30 U.S. communities, covering 21 million Americans of the AARP Network, there are multiple conversations being held. “What is the housing like around here? Can you retrain if you lose your job and you’re over 50? What are the places that you need to get to, and how can we help you get there and back? Do you feel respected and listened to?”
Of course, these things are influenced greatly by personal preference, but there are also some common themes. Recent research carried out by AARP’s Public Policy Institute indicates that police presence, improving schools, walkable streets, good transportation and better parks are preferences shared by all generations.
The AARP Network of Age-Friendly Communities is part of a global movement, as you can see from the articles in this edition of The Journal. Dr. Rose Gowen, the doctor turned commissioner, offers an ‘age-friendly prescription’ for Brownsville, TX. Anne-Sophie Parent, the director of Age Platform in Europe, discusses an EU-wide partnership on age-friendly environments. Maria Iglesia Gomez shares some innovations in housing that communities are trying out in Europe. John Feather from Grantmakers in Aging (GIA) shares some beautiful, winning images from their ‘Age-Friendly World’ photography competition. I hope these all inspire you to look around and think again.
about the author
Natalie Turner is a Senior Advisor with AARP International with expertise in health, long term care, dementia and international volunteering. She is responsible for a number of AARP’s global relationships, including those with the World Health Organization (WHO), Age UK and European Union government and non-government agencies. Ms Turner is one of AARP’s leads for the WHO affiliated AARP Network of Age-Friendly Communities. A British Citizen, Natalie holds a Bachelor’s degree in Classics from Exeter University and a Masters in International Development.