Podcast series explores healthy aging and growing old in an “age-friendly” city

City of Gothenburg

Residents of Gothenburg, Sweden experience a visual impairment simulation.

A new podcast series co-produced by the Nordic Welfare Centre explores the themes of healthy ageing and raises the question of what makes a city an “age-friendly” environment.

Through asking “how do you want to live when you grow older?” to politicians, researchers, architects, municipal officials and young, middle-aged and older people living in Nordic communities, the series explains what factors are needed for a city to become good to age in. It demonstrates these factors through sharing examples of work happening in Nordic countries to create age-friendly communities and cities.

Ann Jönsson, Senior Advisor at the Nordic Welfare Centre and co-creator of the series, reports great consistency in what people say they want in their city to have a good quality of life when they are older. “Wanting to be respected, to be seen as a person who still has much to give, to have a social life and the opportunity to devote themselves to their interests” were consistent responses, explains Ann. The 6 episodes cover various topics including ageism, social participation/combatting loneliness, citizen dialogue, well-being, urban planning and housing.

“The age-friendly city” podcast is available in Swedish, with interviews conducted in Danish, English, Norwegian and Swedish.

Creating age-friendly communities and cities, the Nordic way

The 6 episodes feature initiatives to create age-friendly communities and cities currently happening in Nordic countries. These initiatives include schemes to ensure that public transport is adapted to elderly passengers, as well as projects aimed at galvanizing community engagement, as the following examples illustrate.

  • “Flexlinjen”, a public transport initiative in Gothenburg, Sweden, is working on making its services accessible to everyone. Flexlinjen operates in all districts of the city and the route is served by spacious minibuses with a low floor for both wheelchairs and walking aids. The many stopping points ensure that the route is close to passengers. The bus only stops where someone has booked to board.
  • Nordre Aker district in Oslo, Norway was selected as a pilot area to explore different methods for creating age-friendly environments. Methods used include citizen dialogues, debate evenings, film projects, conferences and working with numerous experts in different fields.
  • Citizen dialogue meetings in Uppsala, Sweden were organized in all districts to identify areas to develop as age-friendly environments. This community engagement exercise is Uppsala’s most extensive, reaching 1000 people aged 60–94. People participated through 1 of 3 different methods of engagement: questionnaires, which were handed out on the streets and squares; interviews with those using municipal subsidized transport; and citizen dialogue meetings.

Action areas for age-friendly environments

Age-friendly policies and actions contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, ensuring healthy lives and promoting well-being for all at all ages, leaving no one behind and working towards sustainable cities and communities. Local policy-makers and planners can take many different policy actions to create age-friendly environments including:

  • creating infrastructure for active mobility and walkability, including building accessible walking paths with resting points, water points and points of interest along the path, as well as pedestrian streets with good lighting;
  • setting and enforcing standards for newly built houses, such as creating “20-minute neighbourhoods” with key facilities within reach of older people’s housing within a limited time of walking or public transportation;
  • encouraging interaction between neighbours by providing community-based initiatives to promote health and well-being;
  • supporting home assessments and modifications, including providing home hazard assessments and professionally supported evaluations of fall risks;
  • combating ageism by awareness-raising and education campaigns to challenge the representation of ageing, while striving to promote positive representations of older people in public;
  • ensuring security and safety of older adults through crime prevention activities, such as collaborating with police on crime prevention programmes and organizing ambassador and policing initiatives in neighbourhoods that are perceived as unsafe.