In recent years, some of you may have heard about something called an age-friendly city. It is a big buzz term in the world of making sure older persons are able to fully participate in society.
But what is an age-friendly city?
The World Health Organization defines an age-friendly city or community as “health promoting and designed for diversity, inclusion, and cohesion, including across all ages and capacities.” This can include a variety of things, ranging from safe roads and transport, accessible buildings, and clean public facilities. Things such as these are supposed to help make sure that people of all generations, including older persons and persons with disabilities (the groups of people who are most likely to face exclusion by the way cities and communities are designed).
The World Health Organization has proposed eight domains that can give a framework for the sorts of barriers keeping cities from being age-friendly. Those domains include community and health care, transportation, housing, social participation, outdoor spaces and buildings, respect and social inclusion, civic participation and employment, and communication and information. Some of these, I should note, can end up being interconnected; for example, if there isn’t accessible transportation, that transportation could act as a barrier keeping someone from the level of civic participation and employment they want to achieve for themselves.
As for where New York City stands in being an age-friendly city, it’s a complicated subject that’s probably more than what can be covered in a blog post. However, one obvious flaw New York City has is in the accessibility of its public transport, and particularly, its subways. While any New York City subway rider these days has probably become accustomed to the announcement that “there are over 100 accessible subway stations,” what this means is that there are over 300 inaccessible subway stations. And some of the gaps in accessibility are pretty bad, such as no accessible stations in the Queens neighborhoods of Elmhurst and Rego Park (both of which have sizeable senior populations), no accessibility at Broadway Junction in Brooklyn or Lexington Avenue-59th Street in Manhattan (both of which are critical stations in the system), and no accessibility at the stop for Citi Field (where Major League Baseball’s New York Mets play). These accessibility issues with New York City’s transit make it hard for people of all ages and abilities to be fully integrated in things such as civic engagement, employment, and social participation.
But, using New York City as an example shows part of the power of having the aforementioned frameworks. By having the aforementioned frameworks, one can easily identify transit accessibility as a barrier keeping New York City from becoming age-friendly. And hopefully, other cities will take being age-friendly seriously, and will use the frameworks to help identify barriers keeping them from being age-friendly.