Age-friendly environments : key component to inclusion and participation

AGE was invited to speak at the annual meeting of the Francophone Network of  Age-Friendly Cities, which included a strong international focus. Our President, Heidrun Mollenkopf, stressed the potential and limits of age-friendly environments to meet the needs and rights of older people and foster their equal participation in the social life of their communities and access to all services of general interest.

Decision-makers and recognized experts from all over the world met in Paris on 5 and 6 December 2023 to present national and international strategies for adapting society to the ageing of the population and share inspiring initiatives that can help drive the age-friendly community dynamic forward. The more than 300 participants, partners and speakers explored how to develop age-friendly environments and policies that encourage participation and put older people at the heart of decision-making, based on a co-construction and rights-based approach.

As demonstrates the WHO’s growing Global Network for Age-friendly Cities and Communities – which features over 1450 members across 51 countries committed to becoming more age friendly – age-friendly environments (AFE) are key for fostering the inclusion and participation of older persons in society, for the benefit of the whole community.

Diverse situations, but similar needs

At a round-table on the international variations of the Age-Friendly Communities programme, AGE President, Heidrun Mollenkopf, stressed the potential of AFE to meet the rights and needs of the older population. While older people are very diverse, their needs are, at the same time, quite similar across countries and generations: the need for a comfortable and safe home, for accessible shops, public services and transportation, places to meet and connect to others, etc.

For AGE, the ultimate goal of AFE should be to enable older persons to exercise their rights and lead fulfilling lives in good health, autonomy and dignity.

To that end, we also need to address the current digital exclusion of many older persons, which prevents them from taking part in economic, social and cultural life. A participatory approach must be adopted that involves older people in the design and implementation of policies.

Missing framework

While municipalities and communities play a central role in the development of AFE, Heidrun Mollenkopf insisted that an appropriate legal framework that protects the rights of older people is needed to overcome the remaining structural, technical and social barriers to achieve truly inclusive communities. This is why AGE Platform Europe has been calling for binding legislation that would be included in an international instrument, such as a United Nations’ Convention on the rights of older people.

As the next session of the UN Open-Ended Group on Ageing will address topics related to age-friendly environments (housing, home, transport…), AGE President invited the participants of the conference to call on their governments to support a UN Convention to ensure older persons’ full participation in truly and comprehensively age-friendly communities.

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