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Brief Published: 3 Aug 2021

New Initiatives Address Age Inclusivity in Cities

How will cities promote age inclusivity during this major demographic shift

The US Census Bureau estimates that by the 2030s, residents of retirement age will outnumber children for the first time in the nation’s history. But how do we design our cities around this demographic shift? Savvy brands are meeting this moment; from intergenerational office furniture to healing parks, Stylus highlights the latest age-empowering initiatives.

  • What is Urban Ageism?: The World Economic Forum (WEF) recently highlighted how older people are often segregated into retirement villages or nursing homes, rather than integrated into wider society. The organisation states that seniors are often seen as the ‘receivers’ of solutions, not the creators – yet their presence in city planning meeting rooms is increasingly crucial to ensure urban environments meet their needs. The problem is defined as ‘urban ageism’. 
  • Age-Inclusive Initiatives: In July, the AARP (a US-based interest group focused on the 50+ demographic) announced the winners of its 2021 Community Challenge. The challenge supports initiatives that promote city age-inclusivity, with a grant of almost $3.2m invested in this year’s 244 winning projects (all US-based). These range from an “intergenerational health and healing park” in Anchorage, Alaska, to an education effort in Tucson, Arizona, that teaches older adults about home-sharing to reduce loneliness.
  • The Intergenerational Office: Age-inclusive cities will need to factor in the changing workforce. As consumers are ageing in better health, they will seek to work for longer (see The New Boomer). Office environments will need to reflect this and recalibrate for senior citizens and their wellbeing. At the forefront of this movement is Swiss product designer Sarah Hossli. Her collections are inspired by research in care homes, prototype testing with residents, and advice from medical experts. For example, her age-sensitive chair design features extended armrests that act as handrails to aid mobility.