Health and well-being are not only determined by our genes and personal characteristics but also by the environment into which we are born and live throughout the life course.
The environment therefore plays an important role in determining how we age and how we respond to disease, loss of function and other forms of loss and adversity that we may experience at different stages of life, and in particular in later years.
What are age-friendly environments?
Age-friendly environments foster health and well-being and the participation of people as they age. They are accessible, equitable , inclusive, safe and secure, and supportive. They promote health and prevent or delay the onset of disease and functional decline. They provide people-centered services and support to enable recovery or to compensate for the loss of function so that people can continue to do the things that are important to them.
Why are age-friendly environments important?
Without age-friendly environments, health for all cannot be achieved. Everyone should have the opportunity to achieve the highest possible level of health and well-being, regardless of age, sex or gender, cultural or ethnic background, wealth or health status.
Older people may experience negative attitudes and discrimination based on their age. Creating age-friendly environments acknowledges diversity, fights ageism and ensure that everyone has the opportunity to fully participate.
Creating barrier-free and affordable housing, accessible public spaces, and transportation enable people to stay independent and participate in community life. An age-friendly environment reduces the risk of falls and prevents the neglect and abuse of vulnerable older people by increasing the safety of the natural and built environments and the security and protection of older people in the community.
Older people play a crucial role in their communities – they engage in paid or volunteering work, transmit experience and knowledge, and help their families with caring responsibilities. These contributions can only be ensured if societies foster their health and participation.
How does WHO support the development of age-friendly environments?
WHO promotes the creation of age-friendly environments with a focus on cities and communities.