The search for a more age-inclusive city needs to recognise the power of property development and how older people’s groups need to acquire a more complex set of advocacy tactics in urban planning

For the attention of: Politicians, especially at local authority and municipality level; Town planners and housing managers making day-to-day decisions about the development of the city; Age-friendly cities and their networks globally; NGOs in the age sector, especially around healthy urban ageing.

The problem:Even though we know that walking is good for older people’s physical and mental health we increasingly plan cities around the needs of young professionals, property development and private profit. Older people have become concentrated in the periphery – where services, connectivity and assets are weak.

How we create more age-inclusive places, that promote walking and social integration, needs to confront the economic and political interests that benefit most from the planning system?

What we did and why: Our  project is a partnership between Belfast (UK) and Curitiba (Brazil) to look at how cities could be made more walkable for older people. We evaluated how older people walk, using tracking monitors; and how policies in planning regeneration and housing support a more inclusive city. We tested our findings through in-depth interviews and case studies.

What our study adds: Our research highlights the need for integrated programmes, better evidence and stronger advocacy networks to create more socially and demographically balanced communities.

  • An understanding of the way in which property development models that favour speculative developments for offices, apartments and entertainment precincts, often exclude older people from assets in city centres.
  • A conceptual understanding of the real-politic of urban policy making and the need for more sophisticated tactics among age-NGOs and community groups.
  • An understanding of the spatial concentration of older people in suburban neighbourhoods and how such places can be retrofitted in more age inclusive ways.

Implications for city policy and practice: Cities need to acknowledge that;

  • There need to be stronger participatory processes in planning, urban and transport policy that genuinely include older people’s concerns in the design of the city.
  • Integrated approaches, especially between physical activity, public health and planning need to coordinate actual investments to produce better housing outcomes for older people.
  • Community initiatives on loneliness, social exclusion and age-poverty need to be better recognised in mainstream urban policies.

Links to other resources:

Belfast Healthy Cities: Our vision is to be a leader in creating a healthy, equitable and sustainable city

Age-friendly Belfast: An Age-friendly City is defined as an inclusive and accessible urban environment that promotes active ageing

Full research article: Planning for an ageing city: Place, older people and urban restructuring

Authors: Brendan Murtagh (@BrendanMurtagh9), Sara Ferguson (@saraferg89), Claire Lyne Cleland (@cleland_claire), Geraint Ellis (@gellis23), Ruth Hunter (@Ruth_HunterQUB), Ruibing Kou (@RuibingKou), Ciro Rodriguez Añez (@CiroAne), Adriano Akira Ferreira Hino, Leonardo Augusto Becker (@Leo26becker) & Rodrigo Siqueira Reis (@ReisRS70)

Editor: Marcus Grant (@MarcusxGrant)