“Age Friendliness openly accounts for older people’s experience of urban space through ideas of participation in urban life, through notions of spatial justice”(Handler)
The emerging field of Age Friendliness to date has not been fully embraced by architects, designers and create urban practitioners, mainly due to the non-statutory status of Age Friendliness but now, we as planners, designers and developers, have an opportunity to embrace, encourage and support age friendly policy and design, similar to the current level of engagement of the statutory design codes and policy documents. It will be easier to be age friendly, dementia friendly and universally designed if we consider broadly the needs of older people from an initial planning perspective.
Prescriptive, well written and researched documents such as Universal Design and Dementia Friendly Design have already covered the intricacies of detailed design and can inform people to the finer details of design. Walkability Audits however are an attempt to signpost the reader at an early stage to the fundamentals of Age Friendly design via the production of a walkability audit - determining how walkable is your town, village or space.
Determining the walkability factor of any town, village or space is essentially an attempt to enhance and improve the lives of older people and leads to a town, village or a space being an Age Friendly area and generally does not bring a large additional cost to the area, but small deliberate design changes made with the needs and wants of older people in mind can greatly improve older people’s lives, keep older people active and help older people to get out and about.
Starting by being walkable leads to being age-friendly which is based on the design concept of designing for the old, which includes the young, which means that by focusing on older people we are automatically keeping a check on our future increasing demographic needs. The Canadian planner Glenn Millar of the Canadian Urban Institute put it simply as:
‘If you design for the young you exclude the old, but if you design for the old you include everyone.’
By being Age Friendly and attaining a level of walkability, older people are encouraged to actively participate in social places, encouraged to walk their town, city or village, and expected to be visible on the street or in the park, they will also contribute to the local business economy. Physical barriers to social inclusion exist by default that are not immediately obvious to younger people, and are generally a result of well-meaning actions, but a misunderstood working of an area.
Whyte Planning Consultants are Ireland's leading Age Friendly Design Consultants and specialise in Age Friendly Town Plans and Walkability Audits. Whyte Planning Consultants have sucessfullly developed Age Friendly Town Plans and Walkability Audits for Donegal, Kildare, Fingal, Dublin City, Carlow and Laois County Councils.