GLOBAL AGE-FRIENDLY CITIES PROJECT
Ageing of population is rapidly advancing all over the world. The Slovenian society has become longevous as well. In the year 2010 the average life expectancy for men is expected to be 74 years and for women 81 years. In the same year it is expected that 16% of all population in Slovenia should be aged more than 65 years and this percentage should double to 32% by the year 2050. The urbanization is also increasing parallel with the population ageing. More than a half of all the population today lives in the cities and in the developed world, three quarters of older persons live in cities already. Consequently the size of the cities is rapidly increasing as well. The cities have always had an important role in human society, since they are economical, cultural, political, social and scientific centres. But the great art of policy is how to ensure just and equitable social and economical development in the cities, which includes active and healthy ageing as well. One of the possibilities for creating and maintaining such environment is the project of World Health Organization (WHO) Global Age-friendly Cities
In 2005 WHO presented the Global Age-friendly Cities project on the 18th world congress of gerontology and geriatrics in Rio de Janeiro. In 33 cities in all WHO regions approximately 1500 older city dwellers were asked about advantages and barriers they experience in different areas of city living. On the basis of all opinions and suggestions WHO defined 84 characteristics of an age-friendly city in form of a guide for realization of this project. The purpose of the guide is for the cities themselves to see and evaluate where and how they can become more age-friendly.
In agreement with WHO our Institute initiated Age-friendly cities project in Slovenia in 2008. We encountered good response from mayors of the three biggest Slovenian cities – Ljubljana, Maribor and Celje. The Institute in cooperation with the City of Ljubljana published a Slovenian guide Vade mecum, starosti prijazno mesto! In each of the three cities we invited eminent senior citizens, who will identify with the help of the guide what can be improved to make life in Slovenian cities more healthy, of better quality and age-friendly. We will collect the findings and disseminate them to Slovenian public and WHO as well.
In 2008 the Institute also started to undertake a research by a methodological protocol of WHO for the Global Age-friendly Cities project in Slovenia, which is intended to deepen knowledge about ageing in urban areas. Its objective is to strengthen the awareness of local needs, obvious gaps and good corrective ideas and thus accelerate the development of age-friendly urban spaces. The research protocol is called Vancouver Protocol and was used by collaborating cities in conducting the focus group research in 33 cities in all world regions that led to the WHO Global Age-Friendly Cities Guide in 2007. We conducted four groups with older persons aged at least 60 years from lower- and middle-income class and four focus groups with caregivers and service providers from the public, commercial and voluntary sectors. Eight topics were explored in focus groups to provide a comprehensive picture of the city’s age-friendliness. These topics had been identified in previous research with older people and include outdoor spaces and buildings, transportation, housing, social participation, respect and social inclusion, civic participation and employment, communication and information and community support and health services. The result of such local assessment is a checklist of the core age-friendly city features, which helps to pinpoint the community's specific advantages and weak spots.