Engaging older citizens in urban planning for a more inclusive ageing society


Ensuring and facilitating the participation of older people in all decision-making processes is a human right and a key objective of our work. It is also the best way to make sure policies will meet the needs of the older population and effectively address the challenges of an ageing society.

Why are Age Friendly Environments so important?

PictureUrbanage According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the physical and social environments are key determinants of whether people can remain healthy, independent and autonomous long into their old age. Promoting age-friendly environment (AFE) is one of the most effective approaches for responding to demographic ageing and increasing the Healthy Life Year indicator.

As shown by Rinat Ben Noon and Liat Ayalon in the research, “Older Adults in Public Open Spaces: Age and Gender Segregation”, the “city public spaces are the continuation of the private home, especially for those older adults who are alone” (1) . Not involving older citizens in the decision-making process of how their cities should look like, could therefore condemn them to the remit of their housing, leading to social isolation and its collateral negative health effects.

The study also mentioned that public spaces should not only aim at mobility, but also at well-being and enjoyment of life.
“The municipal system should arrange streets and squares, avoid potholes, install comfortable street furniture, enable access to quality public toilets, improve appearance, and thus make these places accessible and comfortable for the long-term stay of everyone, including older adults.”

A life-course approach

In the urban planning decision-making process, it is important to include all the different age groups using public spaces to meet the different needs and preferences of individuals at all stages of their lives. Older people are citizens with equal rights and the EU Horizon 2020 project URBANAGE merely aimed at raising awareness about ways to make their involvement more meaningful. URBANAGE uses new technologies to transform urban planning decision making for Age Friendly Cities. This involvement of older poeple should take part of a real empowering and transformative long-time process and not be applied as a process of validation and checkbox exercise.

“Nothing about us, without us”: guidelines to support engagement

Older people engagement is an integral part of the Age Friendly Environment approach, as demonstrated in research and as implemented in URBANAGE. The project therefore developed a set of guidelines for the engagement of older adults based on:

  1. Current practices and tools for civic engagement
  2. Identification of needs, barriers, and opportunities for participation
  3. Analysis of older adults’ attitudes regarding gamification(2) and digitalization.

The guidelines are available here

Based on this document, you can find below the 10 summarized Inclusive Guidelines to engage older citizens in urban planning decisions:

Older citizens’ engagement

  • Guideline 1: Municipalities should consider the heterogeneity and various preferences of older people when creating an offer of engagement activities.
  • Guideline 2: Municipalities should ensure consistency and resources to support long term engagement.
  • Guideline 3: Municipalities should promote self-efficacy.

Citizens’ digital engagement

  • Guideline 4: Municipalities should explain the added value for the users in the use of new technologies for urban planning decisions making.
  • Guideline 5: Municipalities and civil servants should communicate to older adults the benefits to use new technologies in their work, helping the decision-making process.
  • Guideline 6: Municipalities should always offer a non-digital solution for those who prefer not to use new technologies and could still have access to the same rights.

Citizens’ gamified(2) engagement

  • Guideline 7: To engage older citizens in gamification activities, municipalities should emphasis on the social dimension of these activities, as this is a key motivational factor for the involvement of citizens.
  • Guideline 8: Collaboration towards a shared goal is preferred as strong competition, when developing a citizens engagement strategy.
  • Guideline 9: In setting goals of gamification activities, it is necessary to find the right balance between attainability and challenge difficulty.
  • Guideline 10: To help older adults to stay engaged, municipalities should highlight the reasons of their presence and communicate the impact of their input.

For more information on Urbanage:

This project has received funding from the european union’s horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement no 101004590.

(1) “Older Adults in Public Open Spaces: Age and Gender Segregation”, Rinat Ben Noon, PhD, School of Social Work, Bar Ilan University, Ramat Gan, Israel, IDC Herzliya, Rabin Leadership Program (RLP), Israe and Liat Ayalon, PhD, School of Social Work, Bar Ilan University, Ramat Gan, Israel, The Gerontologist, 2018, Vol 58, No. 1, 149-158

(2) Gamification has been adequately described as ‘the use of video game elements to improve user experience and user engagement in non-gaming services and applications’ (S. Deterding, K. O’Hara and M. Sicart, “Gamification: Using game design elements in non-gaming contexts,” in Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems – Proceedings, New York, 2011). While research into older adults’ motivation to play games and preference for game elements is limited, gamification techniques have already shown potential in the domain of urban planning (J. E. C. Escobar and A. R. V. Urriago, “Gamification: An effective mechanism to promote civic engagement and generate trust?,” in ACM International Conference Proceeding Series, 2014).

Related news

Skip to content