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Encouraging Age-friendly Futures at the European Week of Regions & Cities

Updated: Feb 14, 2022

People are living longer. In the next decade 1 billion people across the globe will be 65 years or older with the majority living in cities. Longer urban-based lives need to be urgently planned for by local authorities.  Digital Twins are a game changer in utilising data to achieve more inclusive, age-friendly cities. 

In an interactive workshop this week at the European Week of Regions & Cities the URBANAGE project shared its approach to older citizen engagement with its experiences from Santander, Helsinki and Flanders.

Moderating the panel, URBANAGE Consortium Lead, Roberto di Bernado from Engineering set the scene for the workshop by explaining the convergence of both urban growth and population aging. Felipe Perez-Manso, Councillor for Innovation & Contracting, Santander City Council, followed by outlining the planning challenges faced by the city of Santander in creating liveable cities for all, namely how to enable independent travel for older adults and improve service offerings that matter, e.g. bathrooms, benches and shade.

Patricia Molina Costa responded by introducing participants to the potential of disruptive technologies to enhance inclusivity of planning processes and help shape the urban space. Nhu Tram form AGE Platform Europe supplemented this approach with guidance on the democratic engagement and the meaningful participation of older people. Especially highlighting the importance of adapting technology to be more inclusive.

A view from outside the URBANAGE project was supplied by Dr Tine Buffel from the Manchester Urban Ageing Research Group (MUARG). Dr Buffel introduced the audience to the concept of spatial justice; the fair and equitable use of public space, and the work MUARG were doing to include older adults as active actors in co-creating and shaping urban places.

Slide from Dr Tine Buffel's presentation

A lively panel debated followed with questions from the online audience. Key take away points from the session included:

  • Older people like to be listened to and engaged in planning decisions that affect them, their ability to access services, visit friends, enjoy the city. They are willing to share their needs and experience with planners and civil servants.

  • When organising co-creation sessions with older adults, different characteristics must considered e.g. digital literacy, physical impairment, gender, ethnicity. Otherwise the group (65+) might end up being rather homogenous, failing to account for the diverse needs that old people have.

  • Ideally, there will be some co-creation sessions where both civil servants and older people are represented, to bridge communication gap and ensure that the voice of the elderly is directly heard (not through some report or a bar chart).

  • Technologies like Digital Twins have the potential to enhance urban planning, however, clear use cases demonstrating this impact on age-friendly agenda is lacking. This is where UrbanAge aims to make a difference.

A recording of the workshop will be made available by EWRC soon. In the meantime you can view our slides here on SlideShare. For more information on how URBANAGE will evolve please sign up to our newsletters or follow us on Twitter @URBANAGEH2020

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