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Age-Friendly Cities for Women: Priortising Gender Specific Needs on International Women's Day

International Women's Day provides a moment for us all to reflect on the progress made in advancing women's rights and the work that still needs to be done. At URBANAGE, we believe an area deserving of attention is the development of age-friendly cities that meet the needs of women of all ages.

Age-friendly cities are designed to promote healthy aging and support the well-being of older adults. But what does that mean for women? Older women (over the age of 75) are more likely than men to live longer and experience age-related health issues. They also face unique challenges related to caregiving, social isolation and economic security. To be truly age-friendly cities must address these gender-specific issues and provide solutions that meet the needs of women.

Caregiving: Women are more likely to be caregivers for children, grandchildren and aging parents. This can make it difficult to balance work and caregiving responsibilities, especially as they themselves age. Age-friendly cities can provide resources such as affordable and accessible childcare, flexible work arrangements and support for caregivers. In turn making city infrastructure more accessible for women managing pushchairs, wheelchairs and unsteady walkers, can help women better access support systems. This can include removing obstacles from sidewalks, better location of amenities such as doctors, community centres, schools and better placed, affordable public transport.

Social Isolation: Women over 75 are more likely to live alone and experience social isolation, which can lead to negative health outcomes such as depression and cognitive decline. Age-friendly cities can create opportunities for social engagement, both face-to-face at community centres, senior centres and volunteer programmes, and digitally through social networks specifically based on interest or needs. Community style housing and retirement villages can also help bring together older women, helping support independent living but also providing opportunities for support, easier access to services and friendship.

Economic Security: Women are more likely to experience poverty in old age due to lower wages, caregiving responsibilities and longer life expectancies. Age-friendly cities need to provider more affordable housing options, transportation and job opportunities for older women to remain active and financially stable.

The need for age-friendly cities is more important than ever before. The Covid-19 pandemic highlighted the critical role that cities play in supporting the health and well-being of their residents. New technologies such as digital twins can help create age-friendly cities by providing a more accurate and comprehensive understanding of the needs of the older (female) adult.

These virtual models of a city and its infrastructure can be used to test different planning and policy scenarios and assess the impact of the changes on the environment, the economy and the community. This technology is particularly useful in identifying areas where improvements are needed. For example, a digital twin can be used to simulate how older adult women move through the city and identify areas where accessibility is an issue. It can also be used to model how changes to the built environment, such as adding more benches or improving lighting, can improve the safety and comfort of older adults.

The URBANAGE project aim is to help cities leverage the power of these new technologies to create age-friendly cities which continually evolve and adapt to meet the changing needs of their communities. Today, on International Women's Day, we reaffirm our commitment to creating age-friendly cities that support the needs of women of all ages. By priortising their unique challenges we can all build a more equitable and inclusive society for all.

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