Exploring Age-Friendly Communities and the Importance of Our Environment

As the world’s population ages, more countries are adopting policies that support Ageing in Place.

The ageing of the population is a significant phenomenon of the world in the 21st century. As the world’s population is ageing, demographic changes are producing economic, social and personal challenges and pressures for all societies world-wide. Nowhere is this truer than in regard to housing for older citizens.

No longer just the subject of academic discussions, the issue has given rise to strong government and private sector response. The fiscal burden for government as well as the challenges for older individuals and their families require serious and urgent attention, and as a result many countries are increasingly adopting policies that support the notion of Ageing in Place.

There are many visions about how homes and the associated financial situations can become more adaptable and flexible to the changing needs of older citizens.

Countries across the world differ in the nature of accommodation for older persons with increasing age and changes in function; and with that the role of governments varies. In developed countries, the role of government is increasingly linked to the private sector response and to the changing demands and expectations of the older population. The relationship between national and state policies and the methods of implementing effective programs is a challenge for many countries and communities, but one which needs to be explored with a sense of openness and purpose for solutions.

In contrast, it is too easy to assume in developing countries that the extended family will care for older people as they have done in the past. This is no longer the case. As older people live longer, more women work outside of the home, adult children migrate for work opportunities, and there is the loss of many adult children to HIV/AIDS. Because we can no longer rely on the extended family, the models of ageing-in-place take on new significance in all regions of the world.

Even though there are substantial differences between developed and developing countries and those in transition, there is a common misperception that government and family will remain traditional providers. Rather than being a direct provider, more often than not government will facilitate initiatives in the areas of housing, health, and care.

However different or similar the landscape of a country is with its neighbour, governments across the world play an important role in the status of its older population and each has much to share by way of policy and practice trends. It is both relevant and important for government senior officials to reflect on the subject of housing systems and related financial incentives and the government’s role.

That is why this year’s theme to the International Federation on Ageing’s 9th Global Conference is creating physical and social environments which help seniors to live full and active lives.

“This programme reflects the importance of ensuring enabling and supportive environments, a key priority set out in the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing (MIPAA)” said IFA President and Co-Chair of the Conference, Mrs. Irene Hoskins, (formerly of the World Health Organization). She also expressed satisfaction that this Conference will be addressing the most pressing issues facing the global ageing community today.