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3 Redesigning cities for citizens: towards the all-age-friendly city

A photograph of an elderly man walking with a teenage boy through a park.
Figure 11 Towards the all-age-friendly city.

Bristol University’s School of Graduate Education is working with the Future Cities Catapult to explore ways of creating and maintaining socially cohesive cities that suit the needs of citizens of all ages. The first stage of the All-Age-Friendly City project was carried out in 2014 and emerged from a desire to imagine the future city from the perspectives of people – children and older adults – who are frequently overlooked in the design and planning of cities today.

The researchers found that all too often smart city reports make no mention of the wide variety of age groups living in cities or of the different and sometimes shared needs of a multi-generational city. ‘This is not just an inevitable oversight that arises when working-age adults design city infrastructure but a serious flaw in the design imagination shaping the future city’ (University of Bristol et al., 2015).

Large amounts of public funding are invested in services and institutions addressing the needs of children and older people. So clearly there is a need for city designers, policymakers and planners to think carefully about how future cities will meet the needs of all ages.

The All-Age-Friendly City project brought together researchers working in childhood and ageing, members of local government, artists, community groups, computer scientists, developers, planners, and practitioners working with children and older adults. Their remit was to develop ideas about how cities might better meet the needs and interests of our oldest and youngest generations.

They identified four key areas for future development:

  1. building inter-generational trust
  2. encouraging encounters across generations
  3. re-imagining housing
  4. creating all-age-friendly transport systems.

Their report Towards the All-Age-Friendly City (University of Bristol et al., 2015) draws together the first stage of the work. It depicts possible ideas for improving cities, for example using digital technology to encourage accidental encounters between different generations, mapping social media data to find out how different generations feel about transport systems and redesigning housing to meet multi-generational needs.

The project also looked at the intersection between the World Health Organization’s [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] work on age-friendly cities and UNICEF’s work on child-friendly cities.

Thinking back to the city problem you chose, have you considered how it impacts different generations?