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This is how we create the age-friendly smart city

Published: April 22, 2022

Senior citizens need help and encouragement to remain active as they age in their own communities. Given the choice, that’s what most would prefer. The smart city can provide the digital infrastructure for them to find and tailor the local neighbourhood information they need to achieve this.

Australia has a growing population of older adults, the majority living in cities. The challenge, then, is to ensure city environments meet their needs and personal goals.

Our research shows senior citizens want to pursue active ageing as a positive experience. This depends on them being able to stay healthy, participate in their community and feel secure.

Most city planning efforts to encourage active ageing are siloed and fragmented. Older people are too often shut away in retirement villages or nursing homes rather than living in the community. Current approaches are often based on traditional deficit models of focusing on older people’s declining health.

Another issue is that senior citizens are treated as receivers of solutions instead of creators. To achieve real benefits it’s essential to involve them in developing the solutions.

Working towards age-friendly cities

To counter a rise in urban ageism, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has been promoting age-friendly cities for nearly 15 years. Its age-friendly framework includes these goals:

  • equity

  • an accessible physical environment

  • an inclusive social environment.

Cities and towns around the world, including local councils in Australia, have begun working towards this.

We need to recognise the diverse demands of living in cities, where most seniors live, particularly as we age.

Smart city approaches can make urban neighbourhoods more age-friendly. One way technology and better design do this is to improve access to the sort of information older Australians need – on the walkability of neighbourhoods, for example.