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Redefining Public Spaces for Older People
Anne Karpf writes about why many older people see the city as a hostile place. "Cities are designed for a mythical average person – super-mobile, without dependents or disabilities but with a cast-iron bladder. This person is more likely to be young than old. And yet by 2030, two-thirds of the world's population will be living in cities and, in high-income societies, a quarter of them will be over the age of 60."
Today, that demographic tends to stay in perceived indoor comfort. And that's not good. From the article: "There's a paradox at the heart of cities and old people, and it's this: all the research on health and well-being – and there's reams of it – suggests that old people are more content and more likely to flourish if they go out, participate in local life and have a decent amount of social interaction."
Karpf argues that we perceive aging incorrectly, as an isolated personal "problem" rather than a phase of life with unique public and spatial requirements.
Official overtures to the age-friendly city, says Karpf, often feel like empty sloganeering. But there are many ways cities can open up to old people. "And then I realise that I've been looking in the wrong place – searching for the grand gesture, the sweeping change: age-friendly by government fiat. In reality, age-friendly changes are taking place all around us at the level where most of us live – locally and hyper-locally." The article details several examples of these local changes in action.