#EURegionsWeek UNIVERSITY: Transforming cities into arenas for healthy ageing
Dr Lucie Vidovicova, of Masaryk University, Czech Republic began by challenging the audience to think of the age friendly place agenda as an opportunity to confront environmental ageism. She suggested that “A socially integrated Europe is one where all people are empowered to move about with safety and dignity in well maintained spaces that promote full engagement in every aspect of life”. Professor Lynne Corner Director of Engagement for the National Innovation Centre for Ageing in Newcastle deepened the discussion by setting out how older people should be included as of right in decision making about place and products. In 2007 VOICE [Valuing Our Intellectual Capital and Experience] was established by Newcastle University as a means of harnessing the immense experience and insights of the public, especially older people, to co-develop evidence based products and services that are needed to support healthy ageing and to respond to the opportunities arising from demographic change. VOICE is now an international organisation looking to mainstream its methods of engagement. She concluded that “Wherever you live in Europe the challenges we face as we grow older have striking similarities – to be able to capture the experience and insight of older people is a key asset”. Professor Rose Gilroy, Newcastle University, broadened the engagement theme through an example of the quadruple helix model in action. In Newcastle, key actors from the municipality, business leads and academics together with older people came together to imagine and then drive forward a new housing development that will provide opportunities for people to grow old in adaptable dwellings that also speak to sustainability and are informed by digital innovation. The design of the dwellings was created through co-design processes that drew in several voices previously never heard by architects such as health professionals working in the community. What valuable resources might be being wasted and how might these be tapped for the benefit of good design? She suggested that complex multi-faceted issues such as the impact of extended lives demands multi sector partnerships where new relationships of trust can nurture greater creativity. Finally, Professor Dominique Verte, Professor of Education Science, Vrije Universiteit Brussels, talked of new models of engaging citizens in planning their neighbourhoods. “It remains a paradox that older people tend to spend more time in their neighbourhood but are among the first to be ignored when it comes to decision-making processes and participation about those places.” The Flemish project aimed to provide an instrument to measure the living conditions and quality of life of older people and through this to promote evidence-based policy that would support age friendly communities. What was different was the commitment to continuous cooperation between local key actors, the academics, municipality and older people.
Take away message
All European countries are facing the same ageing challenge. How do we respond to these issues, as well as recognise and exploit the opportunities that extended lives bring? The four speakers set out methodological tools for engaging with older people and ensuring that their insights are valued in creative multi sector partnerships that lead to enhanced quality of life, enriched places and economic benefits for all to enjoy.
Perek‐Białas, J., Ruzik, A., & Vidovićová, L. (2006). Active ageing policies in the Czech Republic and Poland. International Social Science Journal, 58(190), 559-570.
De Donder, L., Buffel, T., Dury, S., De Witte, N. and Verte, D., 2013. Perceptual quality of neighbourhood design and feelings of unsafety. Ageing & Society, 33(6), pp.917-937.