Track Sessions I
A. Age-friendly Cities: 'How can urban planning respond to the needs of older people?'
- Jane BARRATT Secretary General, International Federation on Ageing
- Alexander KALACHE Co-President, International Longevity Centres Global Alliance
- LAW Chi-kwong Secretary for Labour and Welfare, The Hong Kong SAR
- Terry LUM Head of Department of Social Work and Social Administration, The University of Hong Kong
This session focused on how urban planning could respond to older people’s needs and ensure their continued integration into society.
In light of the ageing populations in many cities, the panellists discussed fundamental mindsets that individuals, communities, and governments should possess in order to build age-friendly cities.
Dr Alexander Kalache said Hong Kong was contextualised by the phenomena of both ageing and urbanisation. As the instigator of the Age-friendly Cities movement, he emphasised the importance of governments having adequate knowledge of what was needed by senior citizens, and what should be done for them. In particular, he raised the notion that ‘Age-friendly’ should not be limited to older generations, but cover all ages. A city should be friendly to and inclusive of all, as the next generation would inevitably age in the future. By involving younger generations in designing age-friendly initiatives, the government could equip future older generations with the knowledge and skill sets best suited to the needs of an ageing society. In addition, a rights-based approach should be adopted, stressing the right of the elderly to participate in society, rather than simply receive help.
Dr Jane Barratt said she regarded creating an age-friendly environment as being of the utmost importance when talking about “age-friendly cities”. Being age-friendly meant enabling people to be autonomous and maximise their social, emotional and mental functionalities. Older generations should not be defined by their illnesses, and forbidden to fulfil their social roles. However, the current environment often marginalised older citizens. She therefore stressed the need to bring about a shift in social attitudes, and assist older generations in doing what society and their own selves needed the most.
Dr Law Chi-kwong spoke of the proactive steps taken by the Hong Kong SAR Government to include an “age-friendly” agenda in HongKong2030+, a strategic study by the Development Bureau and Planning Department to update the city’s long-term development strategy. He drew on the example of the MTR, Hong Kong’s public railway system, which was unfriendly to the physically disabled when built in the 1980s. This was evident from the absence of lifts in most public railway stations, and claims that the railway system provided transport for the masses, not the few. Today, however, lifts were available at most stations due to a shift in this attitude. He would like to see this attitude extend further with the advancement of software to transform Hong Kong into an age-friendly city. An innovative approach backed by technology and public education was suggested, to strengthen the community’s capacity to give positive support to elderly people with dementia.