The needs of the elderly in urban spaces

By Dr. Solmaz Rezaei
Head of research and consulting department

Elderly in the available contractually definitions is referred to as passing 65-years. Elderly is a biological, psychological, and social phenomenon that occurs at different ages based on living conditions and lifestyles. In most cases, this phenomenon is associated with reduced physical ability and, as a result, disrupts individual autonomy and socialization. According to available statistics, there is a growing trend for aging in our country, so that in 2011 the average age of the country was 27 years, and this number has increased from to 30 years in 2016. According to other statistics, the elderly population in our country has increased by about three and a half times between 1953 and 2011, and forecasts suggest that by the middle of the 21st century, twenty six percent of the population will be geriatric.
Studies in one of the cities in Turkey show that the most important concerns of the elderly in urban areas are include pollution, security, access to walkways and roads, weakness in maintenance and management, urban traffic and cultural problems, respectively. In such circumstances, the appropriateness of urban spaces as public places that are not merely physical, but make sense with the presence of community members and their activities, is considered as one of the most important tasks of urban planners as an essential need for the elderly. Spaces that are elderly-friendly provide an opportunity to increase their social interactions and prevent chronic depression and inability in the elderly. Providing such conditions is based on the principle of social justice and is a fundamental right of citizenship. The fitting of urban spaces to create equal opportunities for all segments of society in accessing urban amenities is one of the principles of sustainable urban development. Meanwhile, the elderly are considered to be the main target audience of urban space because of the special expectations they are seeking from their surroundings. Such a space provides the sensory stimuli needed to compensate for the limited sensory abilities of the elderly and has the characteristics necessary for easy perception of the environment by the elderly.
According to studies conducted in the UK, the concepts including: familiarity, convenience, readability, recognizability, security and availability are introduced as indicators of appropriateness of urban spaces for the elderly and reaching an elderly-friendly city.
Familiarity: This indicator refers to the degree of recognizability of urban passages and the presence of repetitive and familiar sights in the city. Usually the use of old-fashioned furniture is more appealing to seniors and creates a sense of familiarity.
Convenience: The convenient passageways and urban spaces for the elderly become more comfortable and pleasant with amenities such as ramps, electric stairs, convenient space for rest on walking paths and sanitary facilities etc.
Readability: Using simple symbols, elderly can understand the direction, route and location of the street, in other words, making the streets readable for the elderly.
Recognizability: This indicator refers to how much urban spaces show citizens their ease of use, specification and type of use. This is important for seniors much more than other people in the community.
Security: The urban environment is considered safe for the elderly without fear from evident such as falling down, being attacked or having an accident. Such security is achieved with the placement of bright lighting, buildings overlooking the streets, separate cycling routes and paved roads.
Availability: The streets with good access features offer good services, are connected to each other, and walkways are wide, flat, and ground level.
The exact identification of the needs of the elderly in urban spaces, the determination of the design criteria of these spaces due to the limitations of the elderly, the serious intention of urban management to comply with these criteria at the design stage and before the start of the implementation phase of urban projects, as well as monitoring compliance with these criteria in other institutions and organizations are among the most important requirements for reaching the Elderly-friendly city, based on existing laws. We must not forget that the social responsibility of citizens also plays an important role in achieving such cities that may be more important than the responsibilities of urban management in this area. In this regard, urban management is obligated to public awareness about creating sensitivities and attracting public participation among citizens through urban advertising and providing appropriate training using the capacity of local institutions.