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Improving with age? How city design is adapting to older populations
There is no denying it: like it or not we are all getting older. According to the UN World Population Prospects
report, the global population of older people is growing at an unprecedented rate. By 2050, for the
first time in human history, there will be more over-65s than children under 15. The number of people over
100 will increase by 1,000%. And as by then 70% of the world’s population will likely live in cites, this will
present huge challenges, and cities will need to adapt. “Small innovations can make a difference,” Recalcati
adds. “Older people are less likely to drive, favouring public transport and walking. The average person
over 65 manages a walking speed of 3km/hour. At 80 that goes down to 2km/hour, compared with the
average for a working age person of 4.8km/hour. Reducing the distance between transport stops, shops,
benches, trees for shade, public toilets and improving pavements and allowing more time to cross the
road all encourage older people to go out.” In the UK, the government has just announced the building
of 10 new towns designed to address ageing and health issues such as obesity. As well as encouraging
more active lifestyles, the designs could include wider pavements, few trip hazards and moving LCD
signs, making the streets easier to navigate for people with dementia and other age-related conditions.
London-based charity Living Streets has also been working alongside communities carrying out street
audits with older residents to see what improvements could be made, as well as campaigning at a strategic
level to influence positive legislative and infrastructure changes. Their project Time to Cross campaigned
to increase pedestrian crossing times which resulted in Transport for London (TfL) agreeing to a
I. Old people walk slowly, so they prefer driving.
II. The adaptions mentioned refer not only to elderly but also to obese people.
III. Population is helping to make improvements.
IV. US Policy makers think elderly people should move to smaller cities.
V. There will be more adults than children by 2050.