Planners can effectively play their part in promoting better places for all if they dedicate more time to address the quality of life issues that older people have often raised. According to research conducted in the U.K, older people were of the opinion that quality of life criteria should include factors like health, mobility, income, home, social networks, information, neighborhood and community participation. Of these factors, the older people identified mobility, neighborhood and home as paramount for various reasons. Firstly, society had responded to elderly peoples’ concerns by creating age-segregated spaces. Secondly, elderly individuals are seen as fixed and situated in domestic environments. Thirdly, the interplay between the environment and the self undermines or underpins independence. Fourthly, the lessening mobility means that the local arena becomes more important. Place remains a significant aspect of life that planners should be aware of given their professional qualifications. This paper will draw on both international and national research to investigate how matters of age can interrelate with wider planning goals of liveability, cohesion and sustainability to ensure that the well-being of all community members is safeguarded (Gilroy, 2008).
Planning is a dynamic process that aims at improving the welfare of communities, and the people living there. Effective planning creates more attractive, convenient, efficient, equitable and healthful places for both future and present populations. Planning enables community members, including the older people, to play a leading role in enriching their lives through better choices. Neighborhood planning gives a set of tools that is powerful that enables everyone to get the most beneficial types of development. A keen analysis reveals that the well-being of the elderly depends on a large extent to the quality of a place. Planners should ensure that they provide a setting that encourages social interaction. This consequently ensures social reproduction and socialization. This understanding is critical to town planning. An effective plan is one that incorporates divers concepts, all of which are meant to ensure that cultural values, family welfare and fear of crime are addressed. The significance of place to older citizens cannot be underscored. Place should offer the all-important neighborliness, while also serving as a generator of social capital (Kneale, 2011). Older citizens often associate home with warmth, both metaphorically and literally. The more the older individuals experience a loss of cultural, social and economic roles, the more they appreciate the value of being in a serene environment. As their mobility decreases, they become almost entirely dependent on what their personal social networks and local environment have to offer. The spaces and arenas they live in have to meet their range of needs on a daily basis (Gilroy, 2008).
Trends in the U.K indicate that the planning system changes constantly as the government changes. In some instances, even a single government exhibits frequent changes with regards to its planning system, and this is a clear indication that the role that planning plays in social development cannot be underscored. One of the major essential approaches that underpin the entire planning system is neighborhood planning. Various players are involved in neighborhood planning such as local facilities, diversity, housing and communities. Simply put, planning is a tool that comes in handy in improving the quality of life of a given community. The role that people play in neighborhood planning cannot be underscored (Ipsos, 2000).
Statistics indicate that in the last decade, the population had increased to about 53 million in Wales and England. Out of this number, the elderly (people aged over 65) were about 17% in 2010. This represents a major increase from 1985 where the percentage of the elderly was 15% (Gilroy, 2008). Experts predict that these numbers will continue increasing, and by 2035, the numbers are expected to hit 23%. From these figures, it is evident that the U.K has an ageing population.
The Equality Act 2010 gives the local planning authorities the mandate to advance equality. The planning authorities should minimize or remove disadvantages that people with protected characteristics such as the elderly experience. They should also encourage individuals from these groups to take part in public life by ensuring that the spaces available suit their movements and their lifestyles. Older populations are generally less likely to take part in online consultation, for instance, and special arrangements have to be made for them. Their lack of confidence, lack of social networks and bereavement can greatly impede their ability or ability to take part in various issues (Kneale, 2011). Planners should ensure that the spaces available for this population facilitate greater mobility. Examples of issues that they should address include poor lighting and uneven pavements, as this can greatly inhibit their movements. Most elderly individuals have raised concerns in the past about lack of proper toilet facilities in public areas as this greatly hinders their ability to take a stroll in the community.
A neighborhood can be defined in various ways. It can be defined by its physical character, street form, administrative convenience, catchment area of services, and on the basis of the views of the local people. The key principles of neighborhood planning include increasing local autonomy, planning for people, stakeholder involvement, adaptability, connectivity, response to place and diversity (Gilroy, 2008).
The environment and the ageing body also have an interesting interplay that cannot be underscored. For the ageing population, an increase in environmental pressure or a drop in competence can result in difficulties in the day-to-day activities (Kneale, 2011). The society, and planners n particular have to adjust their mindset and begin seeing the elderly populations as resourceful.
For older people to be more effective in the planning process, they should get involved in the earlier stages of planning. This is particularly so in the initiation stage of planning. It will determine the benefits that the older people will get from the plan, and it will also ensure that their specific concerns are addressed. The older populations are big stakeholders in neighborhood planning, and they should play a leading role in determining the project’s scope. This will enable the planners to weigh the cost implications against the opportunities and come up with a balanced view. By taking part in the early stages of planning, the older populations will be able to contribute their visions and aims, their preferred planning policies, site allocations, as well as overall community proposals. This will ensure that the neighborhood planning process is more flexible so as to address the unique needs of the older populations.
A keen analysis reveals that the older population prefers the face-to-face method of communication. Given their old age, most of such individuals might not be flexible enough to use most other means of communication, and this explains the importance of getting a first hand account of their preferences.
The ageing population
One factor that explains the huge number of elderly people currently being witnessed is the lengthening lifespan. According to census carried out in the U.K in 2001, the number of elderly people was greater than that of children. This demographic, it must be noted, is not confined to the developed countries such as Britain. Experts expect that by 20150, 22% percent of the world’s population will be elderly. It is also expected that 80% of the elderly population in the world will live in countries that are developed. Much of the older population that resides in Britain is White, with only a paltry 2.5% coming from minority communities (Kneale, 2011). Most individuals regard old age as a period of structured dependency. The central image that comes to mind is that of individuals with empty purses and frail bodies. While poverty eradication is still a major concern, evidence suggests that older people are becoming more affluent.
It must be appreciated that at almost all stages of their lives, the elderly have played a leading role in political, economic and social change. This change has been witnessed within the labor market, within the education system, and within the family. As far as the recent social history is concerned, members of this generation have been the most influential. Upon retirement, most older people tend to move to rural settings because the only way that they can cope with the change of pace is by change of place (Kneale, 2011). They prefer the retirement villages because such places offer them the much needed exclusivity, seamless service and safety. Ageing should be regarded as a global issue, and in the U.K, for instance, this generation represents an increasingly heterogeneous group. This is because it encompasses a diversity of income levels, about three generations, as well as a spectrum of faiths. The negative generalizations of the elderly population should therefore be discouraged (Gilroy, 2008).
The centrality of Home, Mobility and Neighborhood
Most individuals tend to have some physical associations with the physical dwelling they call home. For older people particularly, memories, marriage and mortgage may confine an individual to a certain dwelling regardless of the changes that is taking place around. According to time studies, elderly individuals spend a significant amount of time at home compared to other age groups (Ipsos, 2000). This underlines the importance of proper planning mechanisms to ensure that the needs of the older people are addressed when designing their neighborhoods. They should be granted some level of choice, especially when it comes to their locality, as this will be instrumental in ensuring that they can effectively express their preference. Planners must ensure that they give the older population a range of housing options (Gilroy, 2008).
There are huge implications of the ageing population in the U.K. this group of people affect almost all aspects of our lives, socially and individually. Although the implications are huge, planners can draw comfort from the fact that their nature is not dramatic. Sufficient time has to be dedicated to ensure that the implications are considered, and effective preparations are put in place to address them. Planners should take procedural and policy decisions to reflect the needs of the older population, especially their environmental, economic and social requirements. Town planners have in the past made decision making inevitably harder and more complex. The planners have to make assumptions that fully address the limitations involved in planning for the elderly population (Gilroy, 2008).
Demographic data is critical to the matter under consideration. Planners and other authorities that are interested and involved in the impact of the elderly group need to familiarize themselves with the bold trends as well as the detailed aspects regarding demographic projections (Ipsos, 2000). Effective planning is one that puts into consideration the relationship between household demand and population projections. According to demographic projections, the population of individuals aged below 16 will decrease significantly by 2041 to below 17%. During the same period, there will be a significant increase of individuals aged over 75. The population of pensioners will increase to 16 million from 11 million by 2041 (Kneale, 2011). Planners should be aware that this ageing population will no longer be guarded by employment location when seeking their residential location. Quality of life and cost of living rather than workplace issues will influence their choices.
National planning agencies and policies
Governments in Wales, England and Scotland should commission an official audit regarding the age dimension that governs the existing planning policy and guidance. Any national policy should be guided by an explicit age consideration since this is the only sure way of ensuring the needs of the elderly population are addressed (Ipsos, 2000). Governments and planners should devise core policies and mechanisms that ensure that the neighborhoods where the elderly people live are hospitable. The regional planning assemblies should also ensure that projections and assessments are commissioned to establish the evolving demographic structure. The changing demographic requirements should be reflected in planning policies. Most planning agreements, it must be noted, relate directly or indirectly to various age groups. It would the therefore be unfortunate if the provisions for elderly people are ignored in such agreements. For planners, an important policy goal should be to promote “lifetime neighborhoods”. This simply means that various housing provisions should be generated that would be relevant to a variety of stages and ages in a family cycle (Gilroy, 2008).
The planning process should endeavor to make transport and town centers more accessible to the older population. The bus stations should be easily accessible and convenient, and the car parks should be attractive and safe. Relevant provisions should also be made in rural areas as is the case in urban areas. A special emphasis has to be put on preservation of important amenities such as post offices and rural shops, as well as the provision of flexible public transport.
Planners should be aware of demographic changes, and how this impacts land use. For this to be done effectively, they should have an information base that is reliable, and any decisions that they make should not be guided by unjustifiable prejudices and misguided assumptions about a particular age group. This will ensure that facilities such as educational facilities, transport and local services benefit all groups. Evidence suggests that planners can play a leading role in educating and informing on the need of proper land use.
Issues affecting planning for an ageing population
Nature of demographic change
Changes occurring due to deaths and births are relatively slow and this makes them highly predictable. However, other demographic factors like household formation and migration are linked intimately to social and economic factors and are therefore subject to alteration in a short period. There is also the “pension crisis” issue that cannot be overlooked. Most elderly individuals are increasingly seeing the need to continue working longer and this has greatly affected discussions about planning (Harding, 2007).
Special needs of elderly people
Trends indicate that people are generally living healthier and longer lives. This has been made much easier by developments in medical science. However, elderly individuals still require specialized responses when it comes to their health. A big percentage of elderly people want to live distinctive lifestyles, and this has always been a challenge to planners. It must be noted that even within the elderly population, there is great diversity, and it is therefore not fair to generalize their needs when making planning arrangements. The diversity of this group means that they have different attitudes, aspirations and characteristics. These variations have to be taken into account when making planning arrangements (Kneale, 2011). For instance, older populations from ethnic minorities have been rising steadily and planners should devise measures to address this trend.
All individuals who are tasked with planning neighborhoods should take time to reflect upon what makes a neighborhood hospitable for various groups of people, especially the ageing populations. When making planning arrangements, the needs of different people should be taken into consideration. The role of space in effective planning can therefore not be underscored. Space defines how individuals interact, what they can do, and how they feel about their communities and themselves. Effective planning is that which creates ample spaces and places. Planners are therefore tasked with understanding, responding to the different needs of different groups because they all feel, experience, and use spaces and places differently (Gilroy, 2008).
Although engaging people in planning may look like a simple task at face value, public participation in planning has always been lacking. The different groups in society have different aspirations and needs the planning process should provide for. The government and the planners are tasked with the responsibility of making the planning process integrated so that the elderly individuals can see the changes they are looking for in their neighborhoods. Recent trends indicate that the ageing population is the most neglected groups because planners rarely address most of their needs. A wide range of individuals needs to be engaged in the planning process so as to create positive environments that are safe for everyone. The older populations should not be ignored when making consultations as their input will be critical in addressing their concerns. It will not only make them feel safe, it will also make them feel appreciated as community members. The fact that older people have more restricted mobility means that they need a social and physical environment that is supportive (Foot, 2009).
In conclusion, the elderly people should be engaged in planning so as to ensure supportive and thriving communities. The various barriers that discourage engagement with this group of people should be addressed conclusively so as to ensure they led better quality lives with better spaces and places. Lasting solutions should be found that will create more hospitable neighborhoods and give the elderly people the much needed feeling of importance (Gilroy, 2008). The role that the elderly population plays in the economic and social well-being of a society cannot be underscored, and planners should therefore regard them as a resource rather than a burden. It takes the older people to say what exactly would improve their neighborhoods and living experience and they should therefore not be overlooked in the planning process.
Gilroy, R. (June 2008). Places that Support Human Flourishing: Lessons from Late Life Planning Theory and Practice, 9(2), 145-163
Ipsos MORI. (n.d.). Poverty and Poor Health Create Isolation in Older People. Retrieved from 2000:
Kneale, D. (April 2011). Can Localism work for Older People in Urban Environments? The International Longevity Centre – UK (ILC-UK) i.
Schehrer, S,. & Sexton, S. (2010). Involving Users in Commissioning Services (for Joseph Rowntree foundation)
Aiello, A., 2010. Neighbourhood planning improvement: Physical attributes, cognitive and affective evaluation and activities in two neighbourhoods in Rome. Evaluation and Program Planning, 33(3), p. 264–275.
Cromley, E. K., 2012. Neighborhood characteristics and depressive symptoms of older people: Local spatial analyses. Social Science & Medicine, 75(12), p. 2307–2316.
Day, R., 2008. Local environments and older people’s health: Dimensions from a comparative qualitative study in Scotland. Health & Place, 14(2), p. 299–312.
Gale, C. R., 2011. Neighbourhood environment and positive mental health in older people: The Hertfordshire Cohort Study. Health & Place, 17(4), p. 867–874.
Kendig, H., 2012. Older People: Well-Being, Housing and Neighbourhoods. International Encyclopedia of Housing and Home, pp. 55-60.
Harding, E. (2007, November). Towards Lifetime Neighborhoods: Designing sustainable communities for all – a discussion paper
Lager, D., 2015. Understanding older adults’ social capital in place: Obstacles to and opportunities for social contacts in the neighbourhood. Geoforum, 14(3), pp. 112-124.
Phillips, J., 2013. Older people and outdoor environments: Pedestrian anxieties and barriers in the use of familiar and unfamiliar spaces. Geoforum, 47(4), p. 113–124.
Sugiyama, T., 2007. Older people’s health, outdoor activity and supportiveness of neighbourhood environments. Landscape and Urban Planning, 12(3), pp. 134-156.
Thompson, C. W., 2015. Associations between characteristics of neighbourhood open space and older people’s walking. Urban Forestry & Urban Greening, 7(1), p. 41–51.
Vine, D., 2012. The use of amenities in high density neighbourhoods by older urban Australian residents. Landscape and Urban Planning, 107(2), pp. 159-171.
Astell-Burt, T., 2013. Mental health benefits of neighbourhood green space are stronger among physically active adults in middle-to-older age. Preventive Medicine, 57(5), p. 601–606.
Carstens, D. Y., 2003. Site Planning and Design for the Elderly: Issues, Guidelines, and Alternatives. 4th ed. New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons.
Cisneros, H., 2012. Independent for Life: Homes and Neighborhoods for an Aging America. 2010 ed. Texas: University of Texas Press.
Foster, S., 2014. Neighbourhood design and fear of crime: A social-ecological examination of the correlates of residents’ fear in new suburban housing developments. Health & Place, 16(6), p. 1156–1165.
Hanibuchi, T., 2012. Does walkable mean sociable? Neighborhood determinants of social capital among older adults. Health & Place, 18(2), p. 2010.
King, A. C., 2011. Aging in neighborhoods differing in walkability and income: Associations with physical activity and obesity in older adults. Social Science & Medicine, 73(10), pp. 123-143.
Pynoos, J., 2012. Linking Housing and Services for Older Adults: Obstacles, Options, and Opportunities. 3rd ed. London: Routledge.
Shivers, J. S., 2002. Recreational Services for Older Adults. 2nd ed. New York: Fairleigh Dickinson Univ Press.
Ståhl, A., 2013. A five-year follow-up among older people after an outdoor environment intervention. Transport Policy, 27(2), pp. 11-25.