A new special issue of the journal The Gerontologist from The Gerontological Society of America takes on the complexities at the intersection of aging and environment to advance our understanding of how to promote age-friendly environments across a variety of human ecosystems.
In 2010, the World Health Organization (WHO) founded its Global Network for Age-Friendly Cities and Communities — with a guiding framework that emphasized multiple dimensions, including physical (indoor and outdoor), economic, social, and health care environments. In a major 2018 report, WHO defined successful outcomes in terms of improved functioning of older people, resulting in longer and fewer inequities in healthy life expectancies. However, the report also noted continuing knowledge gaps for determining best practices and tools for achieving these aims.
“The articles in this issue address the current progress of age-friendly communities and the relationship between age-friendliness and aging in place,” wrote The Gerontologist Editor-in-Chief Suzanne Meeks, PhD, FGSA, in an opening editorial. “They confront intersectional challenges to age-friendliness and evaluate measurement approaches. They are international in scope and heterogeneous in methodology, representing the range of scholarship on global environments for older adults.”
Further, the authors of the special issue’s nearly 20 articles demonstrate the importance of considering the diversity of communities and whether age-friendly initiatives are inclusive across dimensions including cognitive and physical disability, socioeconomic advantage/disadvantage, ethnicity, and personal/neighborhood historical influences, including trauma.
“The issue of inclusivity may in fact be the greatest challenge to age-friendliness,” Meeks wrote. “Until communities can provide the housing, transportation, access to health care and services, and sociocultural support needed by all the older people living within them, age-friendliness will be incomplete.”