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How does a city actually become “age friendly” to create competitive advantage amidst unprecedented demographic change?
Answers will come in a unique three-day work workshop September 30th to October 2nd in Apple Valley, Minnesota, which like most American communities is grappling with these very questions as their populations grow older in record numbers. Local, national and global experts from diverse sectors will create a roadmap for Apple Valley and cities globally that desire to turn “Age Friendly Community” from a phrase into a reality.
The workshop will be convened by Vitalocity! – a new consultancy founded by a group involving Ecumen , Kendal Corporation a Pennsylvania-based senior services nonprofit company, and BusinessLab, a UK-based global strategy consultancy. From September 30 through October 2, these founding partners will be joined by Apple Valley residents and community leaders along with representatives from global organizations such as the International Federation on Ageing, a World Health Organization (WHO) partner; Perkins Eastman, an international architectural and design firm; Sodexo, which provides nutritional and other quality of life services to more than 75 million consumers worldwide and global technology company, IBM.
The Problem: Our Cities Aren’t Designed for Aging
In today’s cities, if you’re not spry and mobile, you’re largely out of luck. This isolates people, limits their contributions to a city’s social and economic vitality, and can have significant health impacts.
Exploring this phenomenon in depth, WHO created the WHO Age Friendly City Framework, which provides eight characteristics (below) necessary for an age friendly city. The Framework is a critically important step in creating cities for all ages and stages, and more than 250 cities have subscribed to its tenets. But no entity exists globally that cities can turn to for cohesive planning and technical advice to turn the Framework into results.
Vitalocity! seeks to change that by bringing diverse skills and expertise together to help cities deliver phased, measurable, quantifiable results based on the eight components (below) of the WHO’s Age Friendly City Framework:
- Respect and social inclusion
- Outdoor spaces and buildings
- Communications and information
- Social participation
- Community support and health
- Civic participation and employment
Our Cities’ Changing Population Driving Age-Friendly Strategy
For the first time in history, more than half of the human population - 3.3 billion people - live in cities. By 2030, this is expected to swell to almost 5 billion. And this population is getting older. For example, in the last 10 years, in every one of America’s 51 largest major metropolitan areas, the number of children relative to the number of elderly has declined. In Pittsburgh, which is America’s oldest city demographically, almost 25% of the metro area’s population is over 60.
Locations long considered magnets for the young and hip are also aging rapidly. In Manhattan and San Francisco, almost 20% of the population is over 60, well above the national average.
According to a new report by Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies and AARP, in 1990, less than 5 percent of U.S. counties had a population where adults over 50 made up more than 40 percent of the community (that was 156 counties). By 2010, this was true of 33 percent of all U.S. counties (or 1,031 of them). The U.S. population over age 65 is expected to include 73 million people by 2030 (that's about 33 million more than today).
And most of these people live in metropolitan areas, particularly suburbs, making Apple Valley an ideal location to launch this important work and turn age friendly design in our world from concept to reality.