I have just moved to Washington DC, and have been volunteering with the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) – in their international department. AARP is probably best described as the USA’s equivalent of Age UK. It is the world’s largest membership organization, with nearly 40m members. In my short time here, I’ve already seen that many of the same challenges exist here as in the UK, as well as seen some interesting new solutions.
By 2050 the number of people aged 60 and over worldwide will have doubled, from 11 to 22%. In the developed world it is projected that by then 64% of the world will live in cities or urban areas. In the developing world this will be closer to 85%. Cities will need to be places where we can grow older, healthily and happily.
AARP runs a network of Age Friendly Cities in the USA. The network is a great opportunity to unleash the energy of local communities and to rally policymakers and businesses to act in the interests of older people and their families. There are currently 15 communities in the Network, including cities, towns and counties. Combined, the network reaches nearly 20 million people. The AARP network links to the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Global Network of Age Friendly cities.
At the heart of the Age Friendly concept are local people, organisations and government actively involved to bring about changes they think will improve their lives, from more benches in parks to changes in local planning policies to involve older people. It involves assessing communities 8 ‘domains’ or areas of community life; outdoor spaces and buildings, transportation, housing, social participation, respect and social inclusion, civic participation and employment, communication and information, and community support and health services. The community then makes an action plan and decides how they are going to decide if it has worked.
New York City is one of the early adopters of the concept. A big, diverse city, it has many similarities to London – it has also put aging at the front of its agenda in recent years, its work on changing New York, one district at a time is a really interesting way of encouraging local action. Age UKs in London, Older People’s Forums and many others are doing much of this work already. The advantage that Age Friendly can bring is; shared learning – across the globe, recognition, and a way to bring the myriad of successes already being achieved under one simple goal – to make your city Age Friendly and a great place to grow old.
Do you think this is something that would work in London?