Some confuse Age-Friendly with specific disabilities. This article in the New York Times explains the issue very well.
Various and numerous ‘Disabilities Guidelines’ help, but they do not ensure access or safety for the ageing populations.
Many buildings may be compliant with such disabilities guides but are still difficult to navigate for older adults who have one or more of the 25 physical, sensory or cognitive challenges outlined in our book, and especially for the frail elderly who have many.
Too often, current buildings turn impairments — a bum leg, less-than-perfect hearing, the inability to walk long distances — into handicaps. Ironically, this includes not just restaurants, multilevel houses and large businesses, but most health care structures.
So, what would an Age-Friendly building be like? For starters, it would be well-lit, and offer easy, safe access that doesn’t require pulling open heavy doors or remembering a key. Building materials would minimise noise, overstimulation, distraction and the risk of falls. Doors, rooms and public areas would accommodate walkers, wheelchairs and a person walking arm in arm with a caregiver. There would be sturdy, regularly spaced chairs where people could rest and regroup.
The WHO Age-Friendly Cities guide includes some broad criteria for AF buildings but more detailed work is needed. If you’d like to help us build the AF Cities iPad app please contact us via the website here.