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. Cities are also key actors in the provision of services that directly influence how active and healthy we age. In old age, people indeed require supportive and enabling living environments to compensate for physical and social changes associated with ageing.
This is in line with what is called the “Right to the City”, as described in the Global Charter Agenda for Human Rights in the City and which states that cities are collective places which belong 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 can therefore have a crucial role to play to fight age discrimination and answer the challenges faced by their older residents, while providing them with opportunities for ageing well. This role is all the more important with the growing demographic shift and urbanisation happening in Europe: 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, older people aged 60+ will represent around 35% of the urban population in Europe.
In this context, AGE Platform Europe very much welcomes the signature of the Pact of Amsterdam by EU ministers on 30 May 2016, establishing an Urban Agenda for the EU. The Urban Agenda recognises the role of cities in tackling some of Europe’s most pressing socioeconomic challenges and pursuing the objectives of the EUROPE 2020 strategy. It aims to promote a better cooperation between Member States, the European Commission and cities and a better coordination of the urban dimension in the EU policy making in order to stimulate growth, livability and innovation with a focus on three pillars: better regulation, better funding and better knowledge exchange.
In order to help European cities use the Urban Agenda to become more age-friendly and promote older urban dwellers’ rights, AGE has published a new policy paper called “Applying the Right to the City to older persons: Seizing the opportunity of the EU Urban Agenda”. This contribution, based on the WHO age-friendly cities approach and on the Global and European Charters for Human Rights in the City provides key insights on challenges faced by older urban dwellers. It addresses 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;
- Air quality;
- Urban mobility;
- Digital transition;
- Innovative and responsible public procurement.
As a conclusion, AGE’s paper welcomes the Urban Agenda’s willingness to strengthen coordination at all levels, recalling that breaking up the silos both horizontally and vertically is crucial to improve older persons’ quality of life. Demographic change, rightly mentioned among the crosscutting issues of the Urban Agenda, impacts a large spectrum of fields, including the provision of adequate and adapted housing, accessible mobility opportunities, social inclusion and poverty. Moreover competences in the field of ageing and rights of older persons are greatly shared among the various levels of governance and a decision made in a field can affect other fields, for instance offering adequate housing to older persons can alleviate the risk of poverty, and ensuring good public transport systems can allow them access public services.
Last but not least, AGE underlines the necessity to involve civil society organisations in local decision-making processes, as a key element to ensure relevance, adequacy, take-up of public policies.
In brief, inter sectorial exchange, cooperation and coordination at all levels are keys to urban sustainability and ‘ageing-well’ in European cities.