Creating safe and inclusive cities for an ageing population
2nd June 2023
Author: Associate Professor, Dr Taha Chaiechi, Head- Economics and Marketing, and Australia Director - Centre for International Trade and Business in Asia (CITBA), James Cook University (JCU), Australia.
A multi-collaborative governance approach involving diverse stakeholders is critical in creating an age-friendly and inclusive environment for the ageing population.
The concept of a liveable city can be traced back to ancient times when city planners placed a strong emphasis on creating urban environments that were safe, clean, and comfortable for residents. For example, the ancient Greek and Roman cities are well known for their well-planned streets, marketplaces, places of worship, public spaces, sophisticated water and sanitation systems (to prevent the spread of diseases), and interesting buildings, which were designed to promote community interaction and civic engagement. Later during the Middle Ages, the concept of liveability expanded to include safety and protection against outside threats and dangers, so cities became equipped with grand city walls, gates and defensive infrastructure. The concept of liveability has continued to evolve ever since.
In recent times, we have witnessed a greater emphasis on creating urban environments that are socially, economically, and environmentally sustainable. Today, city planners around the world are working to address issues such as pollution, congestion, and inequality, while also promoting the use of public transit, green spaces, and other amenities that improve the quality of life for urban residents.
As cities continue to grow and populations age, it becomes increasingly important to ensure that urban areas are inclusive and accessible for all residents, especially seniors. Singapore has taken steps to promote social inclusion and reduce inequalities in urban areas through policies such as the Silver Housing Bonus Scheme, which provides financial incentives for seniors to downsize their homes and move to more age-friendly housing options.
However, creating an age-friendly city goes beyond simply providing age-appropriate housing. It also involves adapting infrastructure and services to be accessible and inclusive of seniors with varying needs and capacities. An age-friendly city should have accessible transportation and public spaces, as well as healthcare services and social networks that cater to seniors.
Our recent study, Silver cities: planning for an ageing population in Singapore. An urban planning policy case study of Kampung Admiralty, we assessed Singapore's urban planning policies for the ageing population against the WHO framework for age-friendly cities. Our study focused on the Kampung Admiralty project, a pioneering development that brings together housing, healthcare, and commercial facilities for seniors in one location. The project is designed to promote intergenerational living, community engagement, and healthy ageing.
Our research shows that effective ageing planning policies require a collaborative governance structure that involves diverse stakeholders. While Kampung Admiralty served as a case study for evaluating the opportunities and challenges in urbanisation planning for the ageing population in Singapore, we concluded that inclusive and liveable built environments could be created by emphasising multi-collaborative policymaking in other ASEAN tropical cities as well. Our approach could be easily adapted to other tropical urban settings grappling with similar challenges related to ageing populations and urbanisation.
In another recent study, Rethinking the Contextual Factors Influencing Urban Mobility: A New Holistic Conceptual Framework, my co-authors and I developed a conceptual framework using the Social‐Ecological Systems Resilience (SERS) Theory and the Theory of Planned Behavior (TPB) to explain the mechanisms of the relationships between urban mobility and subjective well-being and positive health outcomes. Our proposed framework could also serve as a starting point for further theory development. Additionally, by examining the factors that influence individuals' willingness to use public spaces and engage in urban mobility, researchers, policymakers and urban planners can identify and address barriers to accessibility and safety for all residents, including marginalised communities. This approach promotes social inclusion, reduces inequalities, and promotes a healthy and active lifestyle for all, ultimately leading to more liveable and equitable cities.
Ultimately, creating safe and inclusive cities that meet the diverse needs of all residents, especially seniors, is essential. Urban planners must prioritise the well-being of all residents by fostering a socially inclusive, equitable, and vibrant community that promotes a healthy and active lifestyle. By involving a variety of stakeholders and promoting collaboration, cities can create inclusive and age-friendly environments that benefit the broader community. As we grapple with the challenges of urbanisation, our studies offer practical recommendations for policymakers, urban planners, and other stakeholders seeking to create safe, inclusive, and liveable cities for all.
Azzali S, Yew A, Wong C, and Chaiechi T (2022) Silver cities: planning for an ageing population in Singapore. An urban planning policy case study of Kampung Admiralty. ArchNet-IJAR, 16 (2). pp. 281-306
Chaiechi T, Pryce J, Eijdenberg E, and Azzali S (2022) Rethinking the contextual factors influencing urban mobility: A new holistic conceptual framework. Urban Planning, 7 (4). pp. 140-152
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