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Urban ageing - interview with Anne Berit Rafoss


The chair of the newly renamed urban ageing working group sat down with EUROCITIES to discuss what brought about the name change and the issues facing our cities with an ever-ageing population.

The working group recently decided to change its name from active and healthy ageing to urban ageing, why was this?

There are many initiatives internationally and in Europe under the heading active and healthy ageing, so in order to differentiate our working group from the others, we felt a name change was in order. There is a lot of discussion concerning ageing in cities and cities are talked about, but we feel that cities are not really being included in the discussion.
We are all aware that the European population is ageing. The European Commission estimates that by 2020 a quarter of Europeans will be over 60 years old. What implications will that have in urban areas and what are cities doing to prepare?
The ageing population is a challenge globally, but urban ageing has its own set of challenges. Three quarters of the older population live in cities and urban areas will have to think differently when planning housing and urban development as well as the delivery of services in order to meet increasing demands, not only from older people, but from the coming generations who will have higher expectations and different requirements. There will be increased pressure both in terms of finance and human resources in order to meet the demands of an ageing population and this will be reflected in budgets and service delivery. Cities are trying different modes of health and social care delivery and funding, often including older people themselves more, to improve independence and quality of life. Cities are trying to include older people in more policy development, getting their input both as to the challenges and possible solutions.
Can you give us an example?
Many cities have formal structures, such as councils for older people or open, public forums to give older people an opportunity to input into policy development. It is important to let older people be part of the solution. They are a great resource and that does not stop the day they go into retirement. It is important to facilitate volunteerism for and by older people, not as a way to substitute public services, but to compliment services and also empower older people through their active involvement.
What do you think still needs to be done at a European level to ensure a smart, sustainable and inclusive society?
Although demographic change has been on the European agenda for some time, we need more focus, especially on including older people in policy development, urban development and in planning for an active retirement in good health. We need intergenerational activities, co-creation, co-habitation between generations and facilities and activities for older and younger people, which they can plan together. This will benefit all ages, make for an inclusive society and give added value. In practical terms for example, older people could teach history to the younger generation, while the younger generation could teach older people about new technologies.
What will the working group urban ageing do to help advance this agenda?
We hope to learn from each other, to promote and emulate good practices. We would like to present best practices and be part of the discussion about growing old in cities with politicians and practitioners across Europe.