Age and Community
This article reviews both the terms ‘Age’ and ‘Community’ as they apply to Age-Friendly Communities. The article particularly looks at how the perception of ‘Age’ may have changed since the WHO conceived AFCs. It will illustrate that the WHO concept has not changed.
1. THE AGE IN AGE-FRIENDLY
“Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.”
Our Age-Friendly Champion explains her view on our Home Page:
“I certainly agree that an age-friendly community involves the entire community. It affects everyone’s lives, from the youngest residents and especially to those who are growing older.”
1.2 The Latest Age-Friendly Communities Initiative
Welsh Government (WG) funds Local Authorities to create an Age-Friendly Wales. This is part of their latest strategy for older people. The Older people’s Commissioner for Wales (OPC) supports this programme. Her office acts as an affiliate to the “World Health Organisation’s Network of Age-Friendly Cities and Communities”. They offer help and guidance for local Age-Friendly Communities to join this network. Cymru Older People’s Alliance has campaigned for the engagement of older people in the development of local plans. 50+ Forums are part of this engagement process.
Has this changed the perception of many individuals that AFCs target older people?
1.3 Historical Perspective
The European Union adopted the “Dublin Declaration on Age-Friendly Cities and Communities,” in 2013. It was a landmark document that aimed to promote the development of communities that are inclusive and supportive of older adults. The declaration recognised the global demographic shift towards an ageing population. Cities and communities needed to adapt. Address the specific challenges and opportunities associated with aging.
The Welsh Government has shown great perception regarding the needs of a growing, older population. The “Strategy for Older People in Wales: Living Longer, Ageing Well,” 2003, illustrated this.
In 2013, they recognised in the Dublin Declaration that the growing demographic needed greater consideration. It felt necessary to point out that:
…..make the difference between independence and dependence for all people, but especially for those growing older.
…… and participation of all citizens, including their older citizens.
These statements are NOT excluding younger generations. Nor are they suggesting only focusing on the older generation. But they suggest a perception that older people were not being treated equally and inclusively.
1.4 World Health Organisation (WHO)
WHO document Global Age-Friendly Cities: A Guide:
Section 2; “Active ageing: a framework for age-friendly cities”, states:-
Because active ageing is a lifelong process, an age-friendly city is not just “elderly-friendly”. Barrier-free buildings and streets enhance the mobility and independence of people with disabilities, young and old. Secure neighbourhoods allow children, younger women and older people to venture outside in confidence to participate in physically active leisure and social activities. Families experience less stress when their older members have the community support and health services they need. The whole community benefits from the participation of older people in volunteer or paid work. Finally, the local economy profits from the patronage of older adult consumers. The operative word in age-friendly social and physical urban settings is enablement.
1.5 The Older People’s Commissioner’s Website
On the Website, it states:
In an age-friendly community, we feel valued, included and respected and can:
- get out and about
- do things that we want to do
- lead healthy and active lives
- access information
- make our voices heard
The ‘we’ in the first line means everyone. NOT older people as ‘others’.
1.6 In Conclusion
“Life course” and “Active ageing” are key phrases used to describe the Age-Friendly process. There is a close relationship between the life course perspective and active ageing. The life course perspective helps us to understand how our past life experiences can affect our health and well-being in later life. Active ageing helps us to understand how we can stay healthy and active as we age.
Age-Friendly is not about just services for older people, and never has been. It is why the wider context of community is crucial. Why programme leaders put emphasis on inclusion and partnership in the Age-Friendly development processes. An Age-Friendly Community development programme must be include older people. They must be involved alongside everyone else. The WHO clearly state the principles of equity, alongside a life-course approach (e.g. ageing as a process, applicable to all).
Much of this article has already considered the importance of “Community”. Communities take many forms and range in size; the local neighbourhood, your village or town/city. They are groups of individuals who share common interests, values, goals, or geographical proximity. They interact (positively) with one another. Social connections, mutual support, and a sense of belonging and engagement with people of all ages characterise them.
2.2 The Local Authority
Welsh Government wants Local Authorities to join the WHO Network of Age-Friendly Cities and Communities. Local authorities are required to provide a formal Letter of Commitment to the WHO, as an initial step. They commit to leading a local partnership that will implement and advance the Age-Friendly framework in their community. In Wales, Local Authorities have created Age-Friendly Champions, from elected members, and Age-Friendly Leads, who are council officers, funded by Welsh Government.
The council borough is the largest community. Each local authority is crucial in creating and maintaining the Age-Friendly environment. It must support the well-being and inclusion of older adults. It plays a significant role in implementing the age-friendly framework within its jurisdiction. The predominant responsibility is for leadership and coordination. They establish partnerships and facilitate communication between different sectors. This will ensure the effective implementation of age-friendly policies. It sets the tone and example for smaller organisations and communities throughout the borough to follow.
2.3 Your Community
You may have more than one community; your neighbours, your exercise group etc. Is your community Age-Friendly? Would you like help to improve your community or start on the Age-Friendly journey?
A good place to start would be to ask your local council. See their website article:
Or contact them by email:
If you are reading this article, you are almost certainly looking at our
You can see the sort of Age-Friendly projects we run. If you are interested in helping us with this kind of work, we would love to hear from you.
2.3.1 Cymru Older Peoples Alliance and Ageing Well in Wales have co-produced an Age-Friendly guide:
A practical guide to creating change in your community DOWNLOAD
The guide provides an introduction to the 8 Domains of Age-Friendly Communities. It provides examples of what local communities could do for themselves for each of the domains. These are just examples but show the sort of things that local Age-Friendly groups could start. It is important to recognise that the guide provides examples to broaden the Age-Friendly concept. We should not be relying on the Local Authority to do everything.
Developing an Age-Friendly Community is not just the responsibility of the council. That is why Caerphilly Over 50 has made significant efforts to develop our project programme. Ultimate success will depend on many individuals and groups seeing the benefit of becoming Age-Friendly.