Try to avoid common weaknesses in understanding participation
The participatory approach frequently confronts the contradiction: in general, it is widely supported, but the implementation of participation is not at the same level. This creates a gap between the aspiration to age-friendly environments and their realization. The problem arises from the lack of awareness of age-related issues as well as the unknown consequences of decisions on the everyday life of the elderly population. The problem might be:
To confuse the aims of participation to the tools of participation
Participation is not an event. It is a long-lasting co-creation process, which starts from the needs of people and continues to the empowering of the people. This process contains co-operation, co-designing, and decision-making as well as evaluation of the implementation of decisions. Without this aspect, participation easily meets the criticism of being formulaic in nature and lacking the influence on decision-making.
To improve participation procedures is not sufficient
Simultaneously with improving participatory procedures, processes of administration should be reconsidered, especially the procedures by which administration is managing public participation. The way administrators are managing participation is a rarely addressed issue, even though legislation only gives the general legal requirements leaving the practical arrangements to administrators. Public sector entities are usually large and complex and prefer to implement policies through standard administrative channels.
A narrow interpretation of participation
The administrative culture and attitudes might hold a relatively narrow interpretation of participation. Administrators further determine the extent of participation, choose participants, shape the ways that the participation takes place and assess the value and usefulness of the process. Administrators might perceive their task more as balancing competing needs than implementing the will of the public.
Elderly people are regarded as a homogeneous group
Participation procedures for older people are often designed for a homogenous group. Still, there is a constant tension between older people as frail and needy and older people as resourceful, proactive and engaged. When planning participation or implementing old-age policy, a clear specification between self-acting senior citizens and old people who need support and nursing should be made.
Narrow insight into an individual role as a consumer/service user
In the common approach to individual travel and activity participation, it is assumed that individuals make choices on the basis of the range of opportunities available to them, but it does not take into account the active participation of individuals in the possible extension of their range of opportunities. Opportunities for mobility are not a fixed structure but something that is managed, shaped and directed by individuals.
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