AGE attended the Brussels Urban Summit 2023 in June to check the hot topics in the political agenda that can be of use to “Urbanage”.
By 2050, the United Nations estimates that two-thirds of the planet’s inhabitants will live in urban areas, making them key areas to face today's and tomorrow’s global challenges. 2600 politicians, academics and civil society representatives from 600 cities around the world, including more than 160 mayors, participated to the Brussels Urban Summit looking for urban answers to global challenges. For the first time ever, the three largest city networks came together to discuss major societal challenges and formulate urban solutions.
These expected trends and scenarios will change the way we live, work, play, socialise and experience our urban environments throughout our lives and into older age. Older people in urban areas often face systematic marginalization and exclusion, like for example limited public transportation, unsafe green spaces, digital exclusion and social isolation.
In order to protect the human rights of citizens across all age groups, including older people, it is of utmost importance for national governments and local authorities to put in action inclusive legislation and comprehensive policies co-designed with citizens. It is imperative to establish participatory mechanisms that actively involve older citizens, guaranteeing complete and meaningful participation in the local and global community.
URBANAGE focuses on helping urban planners and policy makers harness the power of new technologies for more inclusive, evidence-based decisions, putting older people as co-urban designers, validating them in three pilot sites (Helsinki, Flanders and Santander – learn more about the work in the pilots here).
AGE went to the Brussels Urban Summit to find out how policy makers plan to address these issues and if the rights of older people were in the political agenda.
WHAT WE LEARNED
The plenary sessions touched upon important topics as “tackling inequalities and rebuilding the social contract in cities”, affordable housing and “Migration and Diversity: Cities lead the way in turning challenges into opportunities”. Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, thanked all the city mayors and social society for reacting so fast and warmly to the arrival of Ukrainians citizens escaping the war.
Another high focus topic and with a significant number of parallel sessions was given to the need to tackle the climate change. The world is on track to warm by 3 degrees Celsius by the end of this century. Mayors across Europe are enacting landmark measures to either reduce their cities’ part in global warming or protect their citizens from climate-related threats. Historical decisions are being made to call the responsibility of the governments regarding public health as for example the Paris Administrative Court order regarding the government to pay the parents of two children who suffered from recurrent bronchiolitis and ear infections as a result of pollution peaks in the Paris region.
From all the sessions, only one focused more directly on the specific needs of older people and the need to create Age-friendly environments entitled “The Power of Care: How supporting Caregivers can change our cities” gathering good practices from Morocco, Colombia, Uruguay, Mexico and UK. It was discussed how caregivers are essential for building resilient and fair cities. Being mostly women who carry out this invisible, undervalued and unpaid or underpaid work, it is also a matter of gender equality.
We left the summit with new inspiring good practices around the globe and some good discussions. However, there is no doubt that a lot is still to be done regarding ensuring older people’s rights in the urban area. There is a general lack of awareness of the implications and opportunities of the demographic change and the need to engage what more than 500 million people aged 65 and over that live in cities.
Therefore, we call on the need of mayors to really deepen the concept of Age-friendly environments and to:
Adopt a life-course and participatory approach in the urban planning decision-making process, including all the different age groups to meet the different needs and preferences of individuals at all stages of their lives (check the guidelines for citizen engagement developed within the project URBANAGE here).
Create more inclusive, green, and enjoyable shared urban spaces that encourage social activity and healthy lifestyles.
Provide easier access to services and opportunities for all, ensuring older people are included in the digital transformation.
Integrate disruptive technologies such as urban digital twins, big data analysis, and artificial intelligence to support public decision-making and services provided in urban planning for age-friendly environments.
Invest in caring neighbourhoods and communities.
Encourage active aging, enabling older adults to contribute to the workforce and local economy.
The URBANAGE project is striving to find ways to make cities more age-friendly and inclusive to help the rapidly growing older adult demographic in Europe age gracefully. One of the ways this is being achieved is through the development of the URBANAGE Ecosystem platform, which brings together data and services to support age-friendly urban planning and design (know more here).
Promoting older people’s health, participation and security, ultimately enhancing quality of life as people age is one of the ways to create sustainable cities. As highlighted in Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, in the opening speech “people who care deeply about their communities, people who want the place where they live to be sustainable also for the generations to come (…) their ideas and contributions can make our planet a better place”.