According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), physical and social environments are key determinants of whether people can remain healthy, independent and autonomous long into their old age. Creating age-friendly environments is therefore one of the most effective approaches to respond to demographic change. To support this approach, the AFE-INNOVNET thematic network on innovation for age-friendly environments has been working for more than a year now bringing together more than 260 partners.
An active network
The first year of the project focussed on enlarging the network of interested stakeholders ready to join forces and to work on age-friendly environments. More than 260 partners have been recruited, among them regions and cities, universities/research centres, civil society organisations and industries. In order to support this mobilisation effort and to feed the debate, two workshops have been held: the first one in Dundalk (Ireland) to discuss broadly age-friendly strategies and the second one in Brussels and in Flanders (Belgium) about dementia-friendly environments. Eight webinars have been organised on very different topics such as senior tourism, EU funding to support active and healthy ageing or the participatory approach: they are open to everyone and recordings are made available on the projects’ website.
Supporting tools developed by the project
By the end of the two-year project, four major tools will have been developed mainly to help local and regional authorities to develop and implement age-friendly environments strategies. Two of them are now ready:
- The first one is dedicated to the Socio-Economic and Environmental Impact Tool, a framework that will support local and regional authorities in evaluating and monitoring their plan and concrete actions.
- The second one is a repository of notable practices made available on-line to everyone. The repository displays notable practices in information and communication technologies (ICT) and services innovations for age-friendly environments; it and seek to identify and describe particularly innovative examples. Its objective is to facilitate networking, transferability and up scaling.
Next step: the launch of the EU Covenant on Demographic Change
There is at present no EU structure to enable all stakeholders interested in promoting and supporting age-friendly environments to link up, benefit from each other’s experience and work together on shaping the EU agenda on active and healthy ageing. The Covenant on demographic change will connect the different levels of governance (local, regional, national and EU) and the different categories of interested stakeholders (public authorities, civil society organisations, researchers, industry).
AFE INNOVNET has started to work on the structure of the Covenant in order to make it as efficient and useful as possible. Discussions started vey early in the framework of the first workshop held in Dundalk (Ireland) and are being continued thanks to an interactive process with all the partners of the network.
Strong links have also been established with the Global Network of Age-Friendly Cities and Communities (GNAFCC) of the World Health Organization (WHO), in order to foster synergies and align the different processes. The WHO network was established in 2010 to connect cities, communities and organizations worldwide with the common vision of making their community a great place to grow old in. Similarly to AFE-INNOVNET, it focuses on action at the local level that fosters the full participation of older people in community life and promotes healthy and active ageing.
The objective of this collaboration is to ensure that the Covenant can be used to recruit more cities and communities in the EU to join the age-friendly movement. Both the GNAFCC and the Covenant networks are developing as two circles which will partly overlap where EU cities and communities are concerned. In a nutshell, the Covenant on demographic change has among its objectives to become the GNAFCC affiliate programme for the European Union to allow EU cities and communities to benefit from their membership in both networks within one single application and reporting procedure process managed through the Covenant. This will ensure a strong bridge between the two networks that will benefit members of both communities.
The way to the launch of the Covenant is not that long anymore since the official event is planned on 7 December 2015, in Brussels. The event should be organised together with WHO Europe in the framework of their project “Age-Friendly Environments in Europe”.
How to get involved?
. Tel.: +32.2.280.14.70
INTERVIEW: Alana Officer
Senior Health Adviser for WHO Global Network of Age-friendly Cities and Communities
1/ What are the recent developments in WHO's work on age-friendly environments?
The WHO Global Network of Age-friendly Cities and Communities has grown significantly over the past few years and now connects over 250 cities and communities across 28 countries. They all share the commitment to create urban environments that foster healthy and active ageing. The mission of the Network is to inspire change by showing what can be done and how it can be done, connecting cities and communities worldwide to facilitate the exchange of information and experience, and supporting them in finding solutions through innovative and evidence-based technical guidance.
The Network's dedicated website, Age-friendly World (www.agefriendlyworld.org), features guides and tools, age-friendly practices and information on city and community initiatives around the world. It provides a global repository for age-friendly base-line assessments, action plans and progress reports as well as age-friendly practices.
The website will also feature a number of new tools when they are launched by WHO this year. These include
- A European Guide for Age-friendly Environments, developed with support from the European Commission, as well as tools for developing municipal action plans and monitoring and evaluating Age-friendly Environments;
- A core set of indicators for measuring the age-friendliness of cities.
2/ What do you expect from Network Affiliates ? And more specifically from AGE Platform Europe?
We are very pleased to welcome AGE Platform Europe as the latest Affiliate to the Global Network. Network Affiliates play a significant role in supporting the Network´s mission through advocacy, and the advancement of knowledge and action on age-friendly environments. AGE has committed to advocate the adoption of WHO policy frameworks on healthy ageing and guidance for age-friendly communities and environments at EU level, in particular within the European Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing and in all relevant EU policies. AGE will also actively contribute to information sharing on what is happening in the EU, including examples of age-friendly practices at local level.