Making Cities Better for Aging: Lessons from U.K. Age-Friendly Cities
How can city and regional planners and policymakers make cities and communities better for aging? Specifically, how can planners create better public realms, transportation, and housing to address the demographic imperative of an aging and urbanizing population? As an urban and regional policy fellow at The German Marshall Fund of the United States, the author chose two cities in England to research their age-friendly work. The City of Manchester was the first U.K. city to join WHO’s Global Network of Age-Friendly Cities and Communities. Manchester is an early adopter because of an interested high-level political leadership. The Age-Friendly Manchester program has a staff team solely devoted to advancing the concerns of older people. Manchester has also produced some of the best recent research and creative thinking on the topic. London was also chosen because it has many of the same challenges as Manchester, but these are further complicated by its role as a global city with huge population gains and forecasted growth. London has advanced age-friendly work not through the WHO Network or U.K. Network, but rather through mayoral leadership on making London the world’s first dementia-friendly capital.
This paper is divided into four sections. The first outlines the growing imperative for urban planners and policymakers to create age-friendly cities. It then describes the emergence of the age-friendly movement in cities and the eight domains of being “age-friendly” as described by WHO, and explains the focus on three of the domains that deal with the built environment. The third section analyzes the policy experience of Manchester and London in three of these eight domains. It ends by summarizing the lessons learned from the research and making policy recommendations for cities, and more specifically, for the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission, where the author works.
Photo Credit: geograph.org.uk