On International Day, UN highlights urban sustainability and inclusiveness of older persons

Two elderly retirees chat on park bench. Photo: World Bank/Celine Ferre

1 October 2015 – The United Nations is today urging countries to improve older persons’ accessibility to urban infrastructure, facilities and services as two phenomena – rapid urbanization and ageing populations – are combining to dramatically change the face the world’s cities in the coming decades.

“Older persons are an enormous asset to society and make a significant contribution to global development” United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in his message marking the 25th anniversary of the International Day of Older Persons.

“In implementing the newly adopted 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, we must account for the demographic changes of the next 15 years. These will have a direct bearing on the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals,” said the UN chief.

In a separate statement” on the Day, Rosa Kornfeld-Matte said: “We need to re-think our cities. Over 900 million older persons will be living in cities across the world by 2050, but our cities are not fit for this global demographic revolution.”

Indeed, she said the existing barriers in public spaces and buildings, as well as the lack of safe, affordable, accessible and barrier-free housing and transportation obstruct older persons from fully enjoying their rights and from living in dignity and safety in their communities.

“Urban spaces and design often exacerbate segregation and the exclusion of older persons,” the expert said, adding that this becomes increasingly visible during recovery after disasters and emergency situations in the face of climate change.

Echoing the Secretary-General’s call to ensure such matters are addressed during implementation of the SDGs, Ms. Kornfeld-Matte urged States to innovate housing, transportation and buildings programmes.

“For cities and environments to be age-friendly, the effective implementation of comprehensive and inter-sectorial policies and planning is required. Regulatory procedures, building codes and mortgage regulations need to take into account the concerns of older persons and reflect their diversity,” she said.

For his part, the Secretary-General said that making cities inclusive of older persons means generating opportunities for their economic and social participation in accessible and safe environments. It also means providing affordable housing as well as the health and social services needed to support ageing in place.”

According to both messages, the Third UN Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat III),” which will be held in Quito, Ecuador in October 2016, will offer an opportunity to advance States’ committed efforts in this regard.

News Tracker: past stories on this issue

On International Day, UN encourages full participation of older persons in society

Related Stories

In-depth Interviews