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Age-friendly and memory-friendly environments
According to WHO, age-friendly environments foster health and well-being and the participation of people as they age. They are accessible, equitable, inclusive, safe and secure, and supportive. They promote health and prevent or delay the onset of disease and functional decline. They provide people-centred services and support to enable the recovery or to compensate for the loss of function so that people can continue to do the things that are important to them.
The purpose of age-friendly environments is health and well-being for all, regardless of age, sex or gender, cultural or ethnic background, wealth or health status. Older people may experience negative attitudes and discrimination based on their age. Creating age-friendly environments acknowledges diversity, fights ageism and ensures that everyone has an opportunity to fully participate.
Creating barrier-free and affordable housing, accessible public spaces, and transportation enable people to stay independent and participate in community life. An age-friendly environment reduces the risk of falls and prevents the neglect and abuse of vulnerable older people by increasing the safety of the natural and built environments and the security and protection of older people in the community. Older people play a crucial role in their communities – they engage in paid or volunteering work, transmit experience and knowledge, and help their families with caring responsibilities. These contributions can only be ensured if societies foster their health and participation.
In the localized analysis made in the Green SAM partner cities, one success factor was that in all the cities considered, a culture of giving seats to the elderly was recognized. In addition, priority seats were available for the elderly in public transportation in 67% of the responses. In every partner city, there are discount tickets in public transportation for elderly people.
In practical terms, age-friendly environments are free from physical and social barriers and supported by policies, systems, services, products and technologies that:
Age-friendly practices help build older people’s abilities to meet their basic needs, learn, grow and make decisions, be mobile, build and maintain relationships and contribute. In doing so, age-friendly practices recognize the wide range of capacities and resources among older people, anticipate and respond flexibly to ageing-related needs and preferences, respect older people’s decisions and lifestyle choices, reduce inequities, protect those who are most vulnerable and promote older people’s inclusion in and contribute to all areas of community life.
For many older adults, the ability to participate in the social environment is dependent on the physical environment and the extent to which it enables mobility. For example, a city could invest time and energy designing and constructing a park specifically for older adults, with appropriate seating and other amenities and programming. But, if older adults cannot physically access the park, they are unintentionally excluded from this space. In many ways, transportation is the tissue that connects people to their physical and social environments.
One example of good practices that the City of Turku has developed its digital services actively by building a service map. The task of the service map is to guide the people in need of services to them. The service map includes information about the services, offices of the town and their accessibility. Furthermore, there are own profiles in the service map for different user groups such as visually disabled people, hearing impaired people and wheelchair users, who get the information on how to manage their business in every service.
Petri Lampinen (Alzheimer Europe’s member of the memory sick people’s team) writes In Finnish Memory magazine about cognitive liberty. He emphasizes the significance of good and clear guides. Especially contrasts of colors to facilitate perceiving. Also, the noise of the environment can cause problems of concentrating.
Clusters for the domains of an Age-friendly city
The WHO’s Age-friendly City Project was launched at the 18th IAGG World Congress of Gerontology and Geriatrics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in June 2005. Between September 2006 and April 2007, 33 cities from all continents participated in a WHO research project to explore the elements that make up an age-friendly city, with each city conducting focus groups with older people, their careers and service providers. From the extensive information obtained from the research, the WHO produced the Global Age-friendly Cities: A Guide and the Checklist of Essential Features of Age-friendly Cities to assist cities and communities to self-assess against a range of criteria across eight key domains.
Outdoor spaces and buildings
The outside environment significantly impacts the mobility, independence, and quality of life of older people and affects their ability to age in place.
Accessible and affordable transportation enables older people to move around a city and influences social and civic participation and access to community and health services.
Appropriate and affordable housing influences the independence and quality of life of older people and enables them to age safely within the community.
Having opportunities to participate in leisure, social, cultural and spiritual activities in the community, and within the family, allows older people to exercise their competence, enjoy respect and esteem and to build and maintain relationships.
Respect and Social Inclusion
Creating environments where older people are respected, recognized and included in the community and the family.
Civic Participation and Employment
Ensuring older people have the opportunities to continue to contribute to their communities through paid work or volunteering and to be engaged in the political process.
Communication and Information
Supporting older people to stay connected with events and people and have ready access to relevant information in a variety of forms.
Community Support and Health Services
Having access to health and support services that are affordable, of good quality and appropriate is vital for older people to maintain health and independence in the community.
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