Applying the Right to the City to older persons: the opportunity of the EU Urban Agenda

Brussels, 30 May 2016

PDF version available here

Signature of the Pact of Amsterdam

Welcoming the signature of the Pact of Amsterdam today, which will lead the way to the EU Urban Agenda, AGE Platform Europe, the largest EU network of older persons’ organisations, is publishing a guide aimed at helping European cities to use the Urban Agenda to become more age-friendly.

By focusing on 12 key themes, such as poverty, digital transition, jobs and skills, and mobility, the Urban Agenda for the EU offers the right platform to build inclusive and sustainable cities for all citizens, and to help them age more actively and healthily.

“In a context of ageing population, rapid urbanization and scarcer resources, the Urban Agenda for the EU and the Pact of Amsterdam are very timely. A very large number of EU initiatives, fora and projects are impacting citizens’ quality of life and it is of utmost importance to bring more coherence between these activities to realise their full potential, meet EU2020 objectives and eventually improve citizens’ quality of life in European cities”, underlined Anne-Sophie Parent, AGE Secretary General.

Both demographic shift and urbanisation are major changes our societies are facing. The number of people in the EU aged 65 or over is set to nearly double, from 85 million in 2008 to 151 million in 2060. At the same time, 80% of older people in developed countries already live in urban areas. This means that most of us will grow old in cities.

These changes imply major socio-economical, technological and environmental challenges to be addressed to ensure and further improve the quality of life of all generations while reducing inequalities and combating social exclusion. This is what the “Right to the City” means. In other words, “a city is a collective place which belongs to all its residents and which must offer the necessary conditions for a decent life from a social, political, cultural, economic and environmental point of view”.

With the persistent ageism and age stereotypes that prevail in society, the “Right to the City” is particularly important for older persons. Cities have a role to play in fighting such discrimination. According to World Health Organisation (WHO), the urban physical and social environments are key determinants of whether people can remain healthy, independent and autonomous long into their old age.

Demographic change impacts a large spectrum of fields, including the provision of adequate and adapted housing, accessible mobility, social inclusion and poverty. The guide by AGE Platform Europe therefore recalls the challenges older persons face when applying their right to the city in 8 out of the 12 themes addressed by the Urban Agenda for the EU: Inclusion of migrants and refugees; Jobs and skills in the local economy; Urban poverty; Housing; Air quality; Urban mobility; Digital transition; and Innovative and responsible public procurement.

By giving key insights on challenges faced by older urban dwellers, the guide invites European Cities to take the opportunity offered by the Urban Agenda for the EU to design their environments in a way that respect our rights as we grow older, allowing us to benefit from our Right to the City all along our life course.

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