For people born in the age of the Internet, the passing of time doesn’t seem too obvious. The continuous and rapid change seems natural. Switching from one phone operating system to another in a matter of a year is the norm.
Just ten years ago, giving out flyers was one of the surefire ways to increase brand awareness for business. Now hotels and restaurants have websites. They even use hospitality analytics services to track their performance. All of these didn’t even come to the imagination of people in the 90s.
Baby Boomers and the 21st Century
All these rapid changes brought about by technology seem normal to the millennials and Gen Z. However, baby boomers now live in a world completely different from the one they were born in.
The first Boomers were born in 1946, just a year after the Second World War ended. When the first baby boomers turned five, the first color TV program aired. But now, mobile devices come with full high-definition screens. Holograms are even a thing!
While it is second nature to millennials and Gen Z to adapt to rapid change, what about them?
The Need for Age-friendly Communities
Eight years from now, all baby boomers will reach retirement age. And in 2034, the U.S. Census Bureau predicts that senior citizens will outnumber the younger population. What do these numbers mean?
These numbers point to a glaring need to change the way communities work now. In just 13 years, there will be more grandmas and grandpas in communities than young people. There is a need to change the insurance system, the way healthcare works, the way communities organize services in order to care for the older population better.
The WHO’s Eight Domains That Make a Community Age-friendly
These numbers are not only true for America. It is also expected that the world population will be composed of more senior citizens in 2030. The World Health Organization (WHO) has defined the eight domains needed to ensure a community is age-friendly. The goal of age-friendly communities is for the elderly to enjoy aging freely and comfortably.
1. Outdoor spaces
People’s bodies weaken as they age, so it is necessary that outdoor spaces have features to make access easier for the elderly. Even late in life, please understand that senior citizens still value their freedom and independence. They may or may not want to be assisted all the time, so it’s best just to make the spaces cater to their needs.
It’s dangerous for older people to drive. But, what is the remaining option if public transport is not convenient for them? Communities should review crosswalks and the time it allows for people to cross a road. The presence of elevators and escalators in train stations. The height of bus steps. All of these must adapt to the needs of the elderly.
Many seniors prefer to stay in their homes for as long as they can. This can be a problem especially considering affordability and the proximity and availability of health services. The government must t look into housing options for them as well as rental assistance. Community policies should also be adapted to make sure they have access to their health needs.
4. Social participation
Just because they are old doesn’t mean they cannot contribute anything to the community. They can still participate in community events. There must be programs that make sure they don’t feel left out. Even for the younger generation, social isolation has detrimental effects on their health. The pandemic has proven this over again.
5. Respect and social inclusion
The elderly should not be relegated to the back seats just because of a number. It’s vital for them to feel that they are still needed and that they can still serve the community. For businesses, this means that there should be policies inclusive to the older population.
6. Civic participation and employment
Senior citizens are still employable. They have a lot to contribute to the workforce. Either through volunteer programs or paid work, seniors should have the option to participate.
7. Communication and information
They already lag behind in terms of access to technology. One of the characteristics of an age-friendly community is one where streams of information are varied.
8. Community support and health services
Healthcare must be brought closer to them through home care and other options. There must also be a policy on the community level for cases of health emergencies.
Community members, leaders, and the government are all active players to make communities all over the world age-friendly.