Friday, May 16, 2014

How does an Age-Friendly City measure up? A new iPad app answers the question.

A couple of weeks back  I attended a seminar in London, arranged by Age UK and ILC. The event was called “Community Matters: Are our communities ready for ageing?”.

The short and resounding answer to the question is NO, but then I knew that before attending hearing the first speaker.

My abiding memory of the event was that lots of people having lots of ideas and aspirations about what being ‘ready for ageing’ is all about. I am sure if I asked each of the conference attendees I would have heard a different response. What is more there are no absolute measures. What is “age-friendly” to me might not be to you.

The next day I read an article in Forbes titled: The Future of Age-Friendly Communities: Can They Do It All? The author, Howard Gleckman starts the article with this sentence.
Nearly all of us want to age in place. We want to grow old in a safe, comfortable, secure, affordable, and interesting community. But what the heck does that mean?

Good question.

The article comes to the same conclusion that there are no universal definitions and all to often the expectations are far beyond the ability of companies or government to afford. It can be great fun speculating about what would be nice to happen but it has to be attached to some sort of reality.

The gerontologist and geographer StephenGolant is quoted as saying that
The age friendly movement needs to set specific priorities given these competing demands and inevitable resource limitations. It is, he says, “unrealistic” to try to be all things to all seniors. 
When a company starts to try and makes itself age-friendly it shares many of the challenges of those associated with age-friendly cities and communities.

It was clear to Kim Walker and I when we decided to create the AF Audit tool that it was impossible for it to answer all of the questions and to be infinitely flexible. 

When a hotel group thinks about being age-friendly it has a raft of different challenges to bank, airline or supplier of white goods. The age-friendly issues facing a supplier of consumer packaged goods are different again.

But, and it is a very important but, there is a common set of issues that apply to all businesses. The same can be said of cities and communities.

Address this common base of age-friendly ‘touchpoints’ and you start to make progress but only if they are measurable. If being ‘age-friendly’ is just a gut instinct rather than something tangible and quantifiable then it is of limited use.

 The World Health Organisation’s “Global Age-friendly Cities: A Guide” is the best known checklist of what it means for a city to be age-friendly yet there is no mechanism to measure how a city performs against each of the criteria, let alone against each other. Until now.

To illustrate the power of AF Audit tool we have taken the WHO questions, added the ability to quantify the answers and then to display the results. This can be done using a free iPad app. Yes, that did say free.

Before rushing to download it is about a few weeks away from being released.

When it is ready I will blog about it – at length!

Our aim is to use the free tool to collect a base of data that will enable cities to benchmark themselves against. That’s the first step.

The longer term plan is to expand the scope and depth of the WHO analysis so that it matches the sophistication of the tool we already use with our corporate clients. Dick Stroud

No comments: