Can global cities be ‘age-friendly cities’? Urban development and
Tine Buffel ⁎, Chris Phillipson
Humanities Bridgeford Street-2.13M, School of Social Sciences, The University of Manchester, Manchester, M13 9PL, United Kingdom
Received 18 December 2015
Received in revised form 15 February 2016
Accepted 31 March 2016
Available online xxxx
Understanding the relationshipbetween population ageing and urban change has become a major issue for pub-
lic policy. An emerging theme has concerned the need to develop supportive urban communities for older citi-
zens. This paper provides a critical perspective on what has been termed the development of ‘age-friendly
cities and communities’by exploring such policies in the context of urban change arising from globalisation,
urban regeneration and austerity. A key argument is that research and policies on age-friendly cities require
stronger integration with analyses of the impact of global forces transforming the physical and social context
of cities.This theme is developed by examining: ﬁrst,the arguments behind the developmentof the ‘age-friendly’
approach; second, the pressures affecting urbanenvironments, and their relevancefor the ‘age-friendly’debate;
and third, challenges for improving the urban environment for older populations. The article concludes by
discussing the need to combine a conceptual model of ‘age-friendliness’with analysisof the economic and social
forces transforming urban environments.
© 2016 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Population ageing is taking place across all countries of the world, al-
beit at varying levels of intensity. In OECD countries, the population
share of those 65 years and over increased from 7.7% in 1950 to 17.8%
in 2010, and is expected to reach 25% in 2050. Of equal signiﬁcance is
the global acceleration of urbanisation with nearly half of the world's
population now living in cities, this is set to increase to around two-
thirds by 2030. Understanding the relationship between population
ageing and urban change has become a major issue for public policy.
The case for such work is especially strong given that cities are where
the majority of people (of all ages) now live and where they will
spend their old age. A report from the Organisation of Economic Coop-
eration and Development (OECD 2015:18) makes the point that:
‘Designing policies that address ageing issues requires a deep under-
standing of local circumstances, including communities’economic as-
sets, history and culture. The spatially heterogeneous nature of ageing
trends makes it important to approach ageing from an urban perspec-
tive. Cities need to pay more attention to local circumstances to under-
stand ageing, and its impact. They are especially well-equipped to
address the issue, given their long experience of working with local
communities and profound understanding of local problems.
This argument raises an important challenge for policies relating to
ageing and urban environments. An emerging theme has concerned
the need to create what has been termed ‘age-friendly cities and com-
munities’. This approach, initiated by the World Health Organization
(WHO) (2007),reﬂects attempts to develop supportive urban commu-
nities for older citizens. Work around this issue has produced various
accounts of the characteristics of such cities, as well as descriptions of
projects and collaborations between cities within and across countries
(Steels, 2015; Fitzgerald & Caro, 2016; Moulaert & Garon, 2016). Yet
this model also has to contend with substantial changes in urban envi-
ronments. The latter have been the subject of researchwithin urbanso-
ciology and urban geography, with studies exploring issues relating to
the emergence of global cities, the effects of de-industrialisation, prob-
lems associated with urban regeneration, and the impact of economic
recession (e.g. Bridge & Watson, 2011; Harvey, 2012; Sassen, 2012).
However, the implications of such developments for creating age-
friendly cities have yet to be examined in any detail. Following this,
this paper ﬁrst sets out some of the arguments behind the development
of the ‘age-friendly’approach, with particular emphasis on the work of
the WHO. Second, some of the pressures affecting urban environments
are reviewed, together with a summary of their relevance for the age-
friendly debate. Third, the paper identiﬁes a series of challenges for im-
proving the urban environment for older populations, drawing on per-
spectives from urban sociology and related disciplines.
2. The development of age-friendly cities
A range of factors have inﬂuenced the development of age-friendly
cities (AFCs), including: ﬁrst, the global impact of demographic change,
with a range of housing and community needs emerging among those
Cities 55 (2016) 94–100
E-mail addresses: firstname.lastname@example.org (T. Buffel),
email@example.com (C. Phillipson).
0264-2751/© 2016 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Contents lists available at ScienceDirect
journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/cities
aged 50 and over; second, the policy goal of supporting people in their
own homes for as long as possible —the idea of ‘ageing in place’
(Wiles, Leibing, Guberman, Reeve, & Allen, 2012); and third, awareness
of the impact of urban change on the lives of older people, for example
in areas experiencing high levels of economic deprivation (Buffel,
Phillipson, & Scharf, 2013).
The argument for AFCs relates to the way in which older people may
experience marginalisation within urban environments. Handler
(2015:12) makes the point that: ‘Cities are, for the most part, spaces
that are imagined and structured with a younger, working age demo-
graphic in mind. Older people are not, typically, incorporated into the
mainstream of thinking and planning around urban environments’.
Alley et al. (2007:4) deﬁne an age-friendly community as a: ‘[…]place
where older people are actively involved, valued, and supported with
infrastructure and services that effectively accommodate their needs’.
The ‘age-friendly’perspective is especially associated with an initiative
from the WHO studying the experiences of older people living in
urban communities. This produced a guide identifying the key charac-
teristics of an age-friendly environment in terms of service provision
(e.g. health services, transportation), the built environment (e.g. hous-
ing, outdoor spaces and buildings), and social aspects (e.g. civic and so-
cial participation) (WHO, 2007). Building on this work, in 2010 the
WHO launched the ‘Global Network of Age-friendly Cities’in an attempt
to encourage implementation of policy recommendations from the
2007 project. The network has a membership of 287 cities and commu-
nities across countries in the Global North and South (2016 ﬁgures).
There are various approaches to creating age-friendly environments,
ranging from an emphasis on physical infrastructure to the quality of so-
cial relations that promote social participation (Lui, Everingham,
Warburton, Cuthill, & Bartlett, 2009; Scharlach, 2012). Partnerships be-
tween local authorities, public health professionals, architects, communi-
ty organisations, and older people are also viewed as a crucial dimension
to building AFCs (Glicksman & Ring, 2016; Garon, Paris, Lalibertė,&Veil,
2016). For example, in New York, local authorities, the police and commu-
nity organisations worked closely with older people to identify improve-
ments that increase the quality of daily life in particular neighbourhoods.
This partnership resulted in older residents feeling safer and more en-
gaged with their community (Steels, 2015). One study comparing the
age-friendly models developed in Brussels and Manchester, two cities
which pioneered the adoption of the WHO approach, also highlighted
the importance of building partnerships with multiple stakeholders, in-
cluding public, private, and third-sector organisations and nongovern-
mental organisations (Buffel et al., 2014a). The research identiﬁed a
number of success factors in developing age-friendly strategies, these in-
cluded: the integration of policies for older people into those focusing on
urban (re)development and the management of cities, and the involve-
ment of older people as actors in setting the agenda for age-friendly de-
velopments. A signiﬁcant issue in this respect is the recognition that
older adults are not just the beneﬁciaries of age-friendly communities:
they also have a key role to play in deﬁning and shaping their distinctive
features (Menec, Means, Keating, Parkhurst, & Eales, 2011; Buffel, 2015b).
Despite the opportunities, a number of barriers –both existing and po-
tential –to implementing age-friendly programmes can also be identiﬁed.
Three in particular will be examined in this paper: ﬁrst, the impact of eco-
nomic austerity; second, pressures associated with urban development
and; third, the changing relationship between public and private space.
Each of these factors will now be explored followed by a summary of
the implications for developing the age-friendly policies.
3. Age-friendly cities and economic austerity
Despite many achievements resulting from age-friendly initiatives,
these have run parallel with the implementation of neo-liberal policies
leading to a scaling back of the welfare state and associated forms of
public investment (Phillipson, 2013). Many of the cities in the WHO
programme have experienced reductions in services of direct beneﬁt
to older people, notable examples being the closure of libraries, cuts to
adult education provision, leisure facilities, senior centres and home-
based care. Pressures on these services have affected work at a
neighbourhood level as well as city-wide interventions (Buffel et al.,
2014a; Hastings, Bailey, Bramley, Gannon, & Watkins, 2015).
This last point can be illustrated with examples from some of the
leading cities involved in developing age-friendly initiatives. New York
City joined the WHO Global Network following its launch in 2010. Not-
withstanding the existence of the programme and the importance at-
tached to age-friendly work,
local funding for senior services suffered
cuts of 20% over the period 2009–2012, declining from approximately
$181 million in FY 2009 to $145 in FY 2012. The impact of this was rein-
forced by reductions in fundingfor New York from federal programmes
such as the Older Americans Act (OAA), with the city's share of OAA
funding declining by 16% over the period 2005–2012 (Center for an
Urban Future, 2013). The age-friendly programme has also found it dif-
ﬁcult to inﬂuence provision in core areas such as housing, where pres-
sures on global cities such as New York are especially acute. Navarro
and Yee (2014) note that: ‘[…] of the 165,000 affordable housing units
created under Mayor Bloomberg [under whose administration the
age-friendly programme was launched] fewer than 10,000 were set
aside for older residents’. And a report from the New York Ofﬁce of
Comptroller (2014:27) commented that: ‘New York City is woefully be-
hind other areas of the country in providing viable subsidized and
market-rate housing suitable for and affordable to seniors’.
In the UK, Manchester was also in the ﬁrst wave of cities to join the
Global Network and is regarded as an exemplar of the age-friendly
As in the case of New York, signiﬁcant achievements have
been recorded, not least empowering groups of older residents living
in areas characterised by high levels of deprivation, and gainingthe sup-
port of signiﬁcant stakeholders including a range of community organi-
sations and actors (McGarry & Morris, 2011). Widening access to arts
and cultural institutions has been an important strand in age-friendly
work within the city. Manchester has pioneered a ‘Cultural Champions’
programme whereby in return for offers and invitations to speciﬁcac-
tivities, older people encourage friends within their networks and com-
munities to engage with a variety of cultural events throughout the
year. Launched in 2011, the programme had recruited 120 older people
serving as cultural champions within their neighbourhoods by 2016.
The programme now works with 16 cultural organisations within the
city, drawing in a diverse range of older people to arts-related events.
However, age-friendly work in Manchester has also been affected by re-
ductions in ﬁnancial support for its core activities. The programme re-
ceived a 50% reduction in funding in the period 2013/2014 and 2014/
2015, following steep cuts to local government funding in the wake of
the ﬁnancial crisis of 2007/08. Key programmes linked to the age-
friendly work in Manchester have ended or have been reduced in
scale. An important group of staff linked to the programme left the
local authority to take advantage of voluntary severance schemes, tak-
ing with them important skills, commitment and organisational
Despite a strategic focus on shifting resources from treatment
to preventive measures, and commitment at senior levels to the pro-
gramme, such pressures present signiﬁcant challenges to achieving
the ambitions of the age-friendly model.
A number of London boroughs have developed age-friendly initia-
tives, for example in Camden, Kilburn, and Islington. The Greater
For further informationabout the Global Network of Age Friendly Cities and Commu-
nities, see: www.who.int/ageing/projects/age_friendly_cities_network/en/.
For further information on Age-Friendly New York see http://www.agefriendlynyc.
Information aboutAge Friendly Manchester can befound on http://www.manchester.
For further information about the Cultural Champions Pr ogramme, see Audience
Personal communication, Senior Strategy Manager, Manchester City Council
95T. Buffel, C. Phillipson / Cities 55 (2016) 94–100
London Authority (GLA) aims to make London: ‘a more accessible and
welcoming city for older people’(cited in Tinker & Ginn, 2015:5).
Research undertaken by Tinker and Ginn in 2014 (2015:2) noted ‘con-
siderable improvements’in the city's environment for older people,
since their last report in 2006′. But they also sounded a note of caution
about the scope of what has been achieved:
‘Well-intentioned plans have been obstructed by austerity policies
since 2008 that include widespread cuts in public spending, job losses
in the public sector, reduced grants to local authorities that lead to con-
traction in community support and health services on which older peo-
ple rely. These cuts in resources have undermined efforts by LAs [local
authorities] to improve the material and social environment of older
people’(Tinker and Ginn, 2015:49).
Walsh and Harvey's (2012) review of Ireland's Age-Friendly Cities
and Counties programme identiﬁes a number of challenges arising
from the introduction of austerity policies. These echo the Manchester
experience in terms of the impact of cuts in the number of core staff ad-
ministering programmes. Walsh (2015:93) summarises the conse-
quences of austerity as follows:
‘[…] limited resources [for implementing age-friendly programmes],
staff shortages in public stakeholder partner organisations (due to em-
ploymentmoratoriums) and, consequently, difﬁculties in securing com-
mitment from stakeholder partners. Such challenges signify the realities
of implementing suchcommunity-based programmeson a cost-neutral
basis in difﬁcult economic conditions. This raises important concerns
about the effectiveness and sustainability of Ireland's age-friendly pro-
gramme. It also raises concerns about how the age-friendly programme,
through a combination of its cost-neutral approach and its activeageing
focus, may end up unintentionally supporting policies that effectively
reduce state involvement in ageing communities’.
Kendig et al. (2014:21), reviewing progress on developing age-
friendly cities in Canberra, Melbourne and Sydney, highlight the im-
portance of the AFC approach in empowering older people and de-
veloping ‘[…] social and physical environments that enhance their
participation and well-being’. They note the beneﬁts of the AFC
model in bringing to public notice the ‘positive potential of older
people’. Yet they also point out that AFC policies have often not
moved ‘very far beyond statements of values and aspirations’with
growing ﬁscal austerity a major factor limiting progress, concluding
that: ‘A barrier to successful implementation of AFC strategies at all
levels of government is a tight ﬁscal environment combined with
organisational inertia and established community expectations’
(Kendig et al., 2014:18).
Other examples of where age-friendly policies appear to be in ten-
sion with economic and social realities are found in Spanish cities
such as Barcelona and Madrid, both members of the WHO Global Net-
work since 2011 and 2014 respectively. Barcelona City Council
(2011:5) aims to encourage ‘active, healthy ageing for older people
and improve the well-being of those older people who are vulnerable
due to dependency, isolation or very low levels of income’. However,
such ambitions are under severe pressure due to the impact of the eco-
nomic recession. The cuts in public and private funding to the
healthcare system, freezing of pensions, housing foreclosures, and the
general impoverishment of the population have signiﬁcantly increased
the risk of social exclusion and isolation for particular groups of older
people. In this context, Clarke (2014) discusses the example of the De-
pendency Law, passed in 2006 by the then socialist Government of
Spain, which aimed to improve the quality of life of people facing de-
pendency due to disability, illness or advanced age. The law was
intended to provide families with ﬁnancial help to hire home assistance.
However, as Clarke (2014),n.p.):
‘[…] the budget for the Dependency Law was cut by13% in 2011, and
even before the economic crisis the service was already insufﬁcient to
cover all the necessary expenditures. The cuts have seriously hindered
the application of the law, which is under-budgeted considering its am-
bitious objectives and challenges’.
Following the above examples, the concept of ‘age-friendliness’
must itself be kept under critical scrutiny given the impact of economic
constraints on urban areas. Many of the cities in the WHO programme
are experiencing substantial reductions in physical infrastructure and
services. The handling of these cuts will be a major test for the ideals
and initiatives associated with building supportive communities for
older people. Whether applying the age-friendly approach makes a sig-
niﬁcant difference to the quality of people's lives, given the challenges
facing cities, will need careful attention over the next phase of the
movement's development. But pressure on services is only one aspect
of the challenge of creating an ‘age-friendly’environment. A more gen-
eral issue concerns the nature of urban change itself and the extent to
which this promotes or restricts age-friendly developments. The follow-
ing sections of the paper examine different aspects of this issue.
4. Age-friendly cities: pressures from urban development
The previous section illustrated tensions implementing age-friendly
programmes in a context of economic austerity. But the problems asso-
ciated with AFC policies may also be related to a second factor: pres-
sures associated with urban development and the characteristics of
neighbourhood change. The study of urban society and population
ageing has tended, as argued in this paper, to be kept separate in re-
search and policy. One consequence of this is the relative ‘invisibility’
of older people in discussions around, for example, the development
of global cities, urban lifestyles, and economic inﬂuences affecting
neighbourhoods and communities (Gottdiener, Hutchison, & Ryan,
2015). The argument put forward in this paper is that integrating the
study of population ageing with that of urban studies is crucial to under-
standing both the limits and the potential of age-friendly communities.
As noted earlier, theidea of ‘ageing in place’has been a centraltheme
in policies targeted at supporting older people (Rowles and Chaudhury,
2005). However, Golant (2014:13) observes that this approach
raises critical questions such as: ‘[…] whether communities have ac-
quired the structural capacity –that is the resources and opportunities
–to accommodate the needs and goals of their aging populations…’
Resources may be especially limited in economically deprived urban
neighbourhoods which may experience a variety of environmental
pressures arising from the closure of local services and amenities,
crime-related problems, poor housing and social polarisation (Rodwin
& Gusmano, 2006; Smith, 2009). Such elements may increase the haz-
ards and risks experienced in later life (Buffel et al., 2013). Low-
income groups of older people may be exposedto rapid shifts in housing
markets as a consequence of housing renewal and/or gentriﬁcation
(Burns, Lavoie, & Rose, 2012). Harvey (1982:89) outlines the context
for this as follows: ‘Under capitalism there is […] a perpetual struggle
in which capital builds a physical landscape appropriate to its own con-
dition at a particular moment in time, only to have to destroy it, usually
in the course of a crisis, at a subsequent point in time’.Elsewhere,
Harvey (2008:33) has termed this as one of ‘creative destruction’,
which he argues: ‘[…] nearly always has a class dimension since it is
the poor, the underprivileged and those marginalized from political
power that suffer ﬁrst and foremost from this process’.
The experience described by Harvey can be illustrated in the UK
through programmes of housing regeneration such as the Housing Mar-
ket Renewal (HMR) Pathﬁnder programme, which operated from 2002
to 2011 in parts of the North and Midlands regions of England, support-
ed by £2.2 billion of public funding. The purpose of the scheme was to
rebuild housing markets and communities in areas where demand for
housing was weak, and where there were ‘declining populations, poor
services, dereliction, and poor social conditions’(Wilson, 2013:2).
Wilson's (2013:5) Parliamentary note on some of the problems associ-
ated with the scheme ﬁnds echoes in Harvey's argument above:
‘The…[Labour]…Government's housing market renewalpathﬁnder
programme imposed large-scale Whitehall targets for demolition
96 T. Buffel, C. Phillipson / Cities 55 (2016) 94–100
and clearance across the Midlands and the north of England. The
centrally-driven schemes were often resented by local communities
and created as many problems as they solved…There was wide-
spread public controversy over an obsession with demolition over
refurbishment […] large proﬁts by developers […] and perverse in-
centives to run-down neighbourhoods […] Local communities in
some of the most deprived areas of the country were told they
would see a transformation of their areas, which in reality amounted
to bulldozing buildings and knocking down neighbourhoods, pitting
neighbour against neighbour and leaving families trapped in aban-
However, the ‘trapped families’were in many cases older people –
either renting social housing or owner-occupiers –and who were on
the receiving end of the problems identiﬁed by Wilson (2013). Judge-
ments about the Pathﬁnder programme indicate a complex range of is-
sues and the evaluations suggest a mix of losers and winners for the
different communities and groups involved.
But the striking feature
of all of the evaluations is the absence of any consideration concerning
the impact on older people, despite the fact that as long-term commu-
nity residents –typically 30 or 40 more years –they would potentially
experience the most disruption. There is evidence about groups such
as older residents ﬁndingnew properties in Pathﬁnder areas too expen-
sive to buy —notwithstanding compensation (Deen, 2012); and about
lack of consultation of residents in the programme (Turcu, 2012;
Minton, 2009;Simpson, 2010). Yet accounts about the experiences –
beneﬁts or otherwise –for older people are missing in ofﬁcial evalua-
tions, although reports by Minton (2009) and Crookes (2012) suggest
that many long-term residents paid a heavy price for the process
which Wilson (2013) describes.
Pressures on older people in the context of gentriﬁcation have been
highlighted in a number of studies. In a study of social exclusion in ﬁve
Spanish cities, Blanco and Subirats (2008:145) reported that: ‘[…]the
most deprived elderly individuals are common targets of eviction
from their homes’(experiences which almost certainly increased fol-
lowing the 2007/8 crisis). Galcanova and Sykovova (2015:1212) in a
study of older people's experiences of urban change in three Czech cit-
ies, found that in gentrifying parts of Prague: ‘[…] strong feelings of in-
security [among older people] were reported, and inhabitants were
involuntarily displaced from their ﬂats, sometimes by illegal means’.In
a similar vein, research in two neighbourhoods in Montreal, Canada
(Burns et al., 2012:1) concluded that: ‘[…]gentriﬁcation triggered pro-
cesses of social exclusion among older adults: loss of social spaces ded-
icated to older people led to social disconnectedness, invisibility and
loss of political inﬂuence on neighbourhood planning’(see, also,
San Francisco, a member of the WHO Global Network since 2014,
provides a further illustration of the pressures on policies to assist ‘age-
ing in place’. Here, the presence of afﬂuent residents, primarily em-
ployees from high-tech companies based in Silicon Valley, has led to
the gentriﬁcation of low-income neighbourhoods and an increase in
rental prices three times higher than the national average (Erwert,
2014). Despite a policy of rent control and strict rules on eviction, nu-
merous examples have been reported of landlords evicting older ten-
ants who have occupied the same apartment for decades, replacing
them with executives in the remunerative high-tech sector.
Portacolone and Halpern (2014:13) suggest that as a result: ‘older
adults living alone may be forced to relocate into senior developments
for their inability to ﬁnancially compete for the limited spatial resources
available. Limited ﬁnancial resources constrain the choices available to
this population. The prohibitive costs of real estate and the limited
services available for older residents who are ‘ageing in place’in con-
ventional housing often facilitates this move’.
For older people who have accrued ﬁnancial capital based on owner
occupation, beneﬁts may arise from gentriﬁcation with increases in the
value of property. This may strengthen commitments to ‘age in place’;
alternatively, possession of housing wealth may ‘loosen’attachments
to neighbourhood as people prefer to cash in on the value of their
house. ReseADD: (eds.)ADD: (eds.) arch published in 2014 found that
in the UK nearly two in ﬁve over-55 homeowners plan to sell their
home with the aim of releasing £85,000 in equity (cited in ILC/Centre
for Later Life Funding, 2015). In this example, spatial inequalities
might be said to reinforce advantages which have operated over the
life course and which foster highly divergentexperiences amonggroups
in old age. But these may be further reinforced by urban-wide processes
which limit control over public space within cities, restricting the scope
and potential of age-friendly developments. A review of this issue forms
the next section of this paper.
5. Age-friendly cities: the privatisation of public space
Athirdfactorinﬂuencingthe development of age-friendlycities con-
cerns the control and ownership of public space. The policy of develop-
ing age-friendly cities makes a number of assumptions about access to,
and ownership of, public space: namely, that it can be controlled and in-
ﬂuenced on behalf of the changing needs and expectations of people in
later life. But space in cities is not itself freely available. Increasingly,
ownership and control are vested in particular groups for whom the is-
sues raised by the age-friendly agenda may have limited appeal. This is a
crucial problem for the idea of an ‘age-friendly’city, where interven-
tions in the built environment are seen as a key element in securing
changes to the quality of life in old age. However, attempts to initiate
change now have to work more often within the context of private/cor-
porately-owned rather than public-owned spaces. Minton (2009:19),for
example, notes that: ‘Multinational property corporates are now the
most likely owners of large chunks of British cities’. And she goes on
to observe that:
‘As the twenty-ﬁrst century corporate estates take over large parts of
the city, the last decade has seen a huge shift in landownership, away
from streets, public spaces and buildings in public ownership and to-
wards the creation of new private estates, primarily given over to shop-
ping and ofﬁce complexes, which, while not actually gated, feel very
much like separate enclaves’(Minton 2009:25).
This observation highlights the extent to which proposals for age-
friendly interventions to re-shape urban environments, such as those
proposed by Ball (2012) in the USA and Handler (2015) in the UK,
need to take account of the way corporations and developers now con-
trol many aspects of city life. This process has been especially character-
istic of many of the global cities attempting to implement the age-
friendly model. Harvey (2012:23) noted in relation to New York that
under the leadership of its former Mayor –Michael Bloomberg –a
champion of the age-friendly city approach: ‘[there was a] reshaping
of the city along lines favourable to the developers, to Wall Street and
transnational capitalist elements, while continuing to sell the city as
an optimallocation for high-value businesses and a fantastic destination
for tourists, thus turning Manhattan in effect into one vast gated com-
munity for the rich’.Zukin (2010) from her research (also in New
York) suggests that developments such as the gentriﬁcation of
neighbourhoods make claims on space which subsequently displace or
marginalise long-term residents.
Examples such as the above suggest that particular groups of older
people may ﬁnd difﬁculties ‘creating’space within cities (Phillipson,
2007; 2011). Global cities, it might be argued, raise tensions between
a‘hyper-mobile’minority and those ageing in place; de-industrialising
cities (with shrinking populations) may create different kinds of prob-
lems arising from contraction of an economic base which can support
sustainable social networks (Buffel et al., 2014b). The challenge is
The national evaluation of the Housing Market Renewal Pathﬁnders programme: is
ments/housing/pdf/1362833.pdf See also: https://england.shelter.org.uk/__data/assets/
97T. Buffel, C. Phillipson / Cities 55 (2016) 94–100
creating an urban environment that supports the autonomy and equal
rights of older people with others to a ‘share’of urban space
(Vanderbeck and Worth, 2015). This issue will be especially important
to implement at a local level, with a particular focus on improving the
quality of urban design and promoting safety and inclusion as key fea-
tures of urban living (Gehl, 2010). One way forward could be to make
‘age-friendliness’a central part of policy making aimed at promoting
sustainable development across a broad range of social, environmental
and economic domains. However, implementing such policies in prac-
tise will require involvementof a range of stakeholders –including pub-
lic, private, and third-sector organisations; multiple levels of
government; and nongovernmental organisations –as well as on-
going efforts to build bridges among these groups. Reconciling the dif-
ferent interests, goals and priorities of these stakeholders will be a key
issue for the age-friendly city movement to address. Another will be
to create opportunities for older people, including the most
marginalised and vulnerable groups, to have a voice in decision-
making processes relating to urban developments and regeneration.
The ﬁnal section of this paper will explore these issues in the context
of an alternative framework to support the WHO approach.
6. Conclusion: developing cities for all ages
This paper has argued that the implementation of age-friendly policies
is being challenged by three major elements: the impact of ﬁnancial cuts
on social programmes; pressures arising from the characteristics of urban
development; and the shift towards the privatisation of urban space. One
result of these factors is that although age-friendly cities (AFCs) have
many achievements to their name, their material impact on older people
has been more limited. AFCs have been inﬂuential in moving ageing pol-
icies beyond a health and social care framework towards one which in-
corporates cultural activities, education and the environment. AFCs have
also helped to promote a debate about the contribution which ageing
populations can make to the economic life of cities, notably with the de-
velopment of new ﬁnancial and technological services (Cox, Henderson,
&Baker,2014). However, the AFC approach has yet to develop policies
which can prevent or reduce the inequalities associated with urban living,
especially as regards their impact on the neighbourhoods in which people
may have spent the majority of their lives.
A central argument of this paper is that AFC policies are unlikely to
be successful unless embedded in the networks of power which control
urban life. However, a number of initiatives will need to be taken for-
ward to achieve this goal. The ﬁrst of these concerns developing a
more coherent link between research and policies on urban ageing. Re-
search on environmental aspects of ageing has an impressive literature
to its name, yet it remains detached from analysing the impact of pow-
erful global and economic forces transforming the physical and social
context of cities. Remedying this will require close integration with in-
sights from a range of disciplines, including urban sociology, urban eco-
nomics, design and human geography. Understanding optimum
environments for ageing must be seen as an inter-disciplinary enter-
prise requiring understanding of the impact of developments such as
the changing dynamics of urban poverty on older people, the conse-
quences of urban renewal and regeneration, and the impact of transna-
tional migration (Buffel, 2015a).
A second issueconcerns applying ‘age-friendliness’in a way that rec-
ognises the complexity of the urban environment. The techniques for
ensuring an age-friendly approach will vary considerably depending
on the characteristics of urban change. Whilst the trend towards
urban living is world-wide, the pattern of urban growth demonstrates
considerable variation: shrinking city populations in the developed
world (Europe especially); and accelerating urbanisation in Africa and
Asia, with both continents demonstrating a mix of rapidly expanding
cities in some cases, declining ones in others (UN-HABITAT, 2012). Se-
curing ‘age-friendliness’in the context of the rise of ‘mega-cities’and
‘hyper-cities’provides another variation. At the same time, processes
for developing age-friendliness will need radical adaptation given the
slum cities prevalent in Southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa (UN-
HABITAT, 2012). The bulk of population growth in these continents
has taken place largely through the rise of slums, many of these located
on the periphery of capital cities (Davis, 2006). The problem of reaching
older people and migrants who are ‘ageing in place’albeit housed in
temporary accommodation bereft of basic facilities, underlines the
need for new models of intervention which can respond to the highly
unequal contexts experienced by urban elders across the world.
Third, implementing an ‘age-friendly’approach requires the close
engagement of older people and those approaching oldage in urban re-
generation. Studiesin the UK by Riseborough and Sribjilanin (2000) and
Simpson (2010) found that older people were often ‘invisible’in regen-
eration policies. The problem here was less the absence of older people
in consultations around policies, more an underlying ‘ageism’which
viewed them only as ‘victims’of neighbourhood change. The authors
make the point that regeneration practise could beneﬁt from the expe-
rience of older people, their attachment to neighbourhoods, and their
involvement in community organisations. Targeting urban regeneration
strategies at different groups within the older population will be essen-
tial, with awareness of contrasting issues faced by different ethnic
groups, those with particular physical/mental health needs, and those
living in areas with high levels of economic and social deprivation. At
the same time, age-friendly efforts should focus not only on changes
for current cohorts of older residents, but also work towards longer-
term neighbourhood change that can beneﬁt successive cohorts of
older residents. There is therefore an urgent need to reconnecturban re-
generation policies with strategies that support resident-led planning
for ‘lifetime neighbourhoods’(Bevan & Croucher, 2011)or‘ageing-
friendly communities’(Scharlach & Lehning, 2013). Such models pro-
mote the empowerment of residents of any age to bring about
neighbourhood changes which enable people to meet their basic
needs, maintain signiﬁcant relationships, and participate in the commu-
nity in meaningful ways as they grow older (Scharlach & Lehning,
2013). This involves public and private sector, and voluntary and com-
munity organisations working in such a way that residents of any age
are enabled to set out their needs and concerns, and identify priorities
for action and change within their own neighbourhoods.
Fourth, and following from the above, implicit in the notion of age-
friendly communities is that older adults are a central part of ensuring
that a seniors' lens is applied in planning decisions and policies. As
Menec et al. (2011:487) argues ‘older adults must be involved in identi-
fying areas of need, prioritizing key issues, and ensuring appropriate im-
plementation’. Whilst progress has been made in identifying some key
policies for age-friendly work, there has been much less success in
terms of making older people themselves central to the creation and de-
velopment of policies and age-friendly initiatives. Here, methods drawn
from participatory research can advance efforts to engage older resi-
dents as leaders and visionaries in identifying features of their
neighbourhood in need of improvement. The case for involving older
residents as co-researchers in exploring the age-friendliness of their
neighbourhood is that it represents a viable method to engage older res-
idents and mobilise their expertise, skills and knowledge and to stimu-
late co-production in developing age-friendly initiatives. In addition, it
provides beneﬁts to the older co-researchers, community stakeholders
and policy-makers involved, because it provides a forum for rich and
meaningful social engagement and mutual learning and exchange
(Buffel, 2015b). However, there remains a need for experimentation
to test and learn from participatory and collaborative approaches in-
volving older people in the co-production of urban space. The success
of communities in becoming more age-friendly will, to a large extent,
depend on whether older people, including those facing social exclu-
sion, will be involved as key actors in setting the agenda for future re-
search and policies on age-friendly developments.
Finally, and following on from the lastpoint, there is a strong casefor
incorporating issues about ageing in urban environments with debates
98 T. Buffel, C. Phillipson / Cities 55 (2016) 94–100
concerning spatial justice. Here, we would underline the relevance of
Soja's (2010:19) argument that the: ‘…geographies in which we live
can have both positive and negative effects on our lives’.Hewrites:
‘They are not just dead background or a neutral physical stage for the
human drama but are ﬁlled with material and imagined forces that
can hurt us or help us in nearly everything we do, individually and col-
lectively’. He concludes: ‘This is a vitally important part of the new spa-
tial consciousness, making us aware that the geographies in which we
live can intensify and sustain our exploitation as workers, support op-
pressive forms of cultural and political domination based on race, gen-
der, and nationality, and aggravate all forms of discrimination and
injustice’. Ensuring spatial justice for different groups of older people
is now a crucial part of this debate, with developing an integrated ap-
proach to demographic andurban change representing a key taskfor re-
search and public policy.
The authors would like to thank the members of the Population and
Ageing and Urbanisation (INPAU) network, and all research groups,
local authorities, NGOs and charitable foundations involved in promot-
ing active ageing in urban environments through high quality research.
We are also grateful for the feedback from the journal editor, the
referees, and the participants and co-researchers involved in public
Age-Friendly Research events organised by the Manchester Institute
for Collaborative Research on Ageing (MICRA). This research has been
supported through a Marie Curie Fellowship at the University of
Alley, D., Liebig, P., Pynoos, J., Benerjee, T., & Choi, I. H. (2007). Creating elder-friendly
communities: Preparation for an aging society. Journal of Gerontological Social Work,
Audience Agency (2013). Valuing older people —Cultural champions scheme: Evaluation.
London: The Audience Agency.
Ball, M. S.(2012). Livable communities foraging populations:Urban design for longevity.Ho-
boken, NJ: John Wiley.
Barcelona City Council (2011). Barcelona Age-Friendly City: Together we build a city for all
ages. Barcelona: Barcelona City Council.
Bevan, M., & Croucher, K. (2011). Lifetime neighbourhoods. London: Department for Com-
munities and Local Government.
Blanco, I., & Subirats, J. (2008). Social exclusion, area effects and metropolitan gover-
nance: A comparative analysis of ﬁve large Spanish cities. Urban Research and
Bridge, G., & Watson, S. (2011). Reﬂections on Materialities. In G. Bridge, & S. Watson
(Eds.), The new Blac kwell companion to t he city (pp. 3–15). West Sussex: Wiley-
Buffel, T. (2015a). Ageing migrants and the creation of home: Mobility and the mainte-
nance of transnational ties. Population Space and Place, 1994 Article ﬁrst published
online: 27 OCT 2015 | http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/psp.
Buffel, T. (2015b). Researching age-friendly communities. Stories from older people as co-in-
vestigators. Ma nchester: The University of Manchester Library. Available online
Buffel, T., DeDonder, L., Phillipson, C., De Witte, N., Dury, S., & Verte, D. (2014b). Place at-
tachment among ol der adults living in four communities in Flanders, Belgium.
Housing Studies,29,800–822. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02673037.2014.898741.
Buffel, T.,McGarry, P., Phillipson, C., De Donder, L., Dury, S., De Witte,N., & Smetcoren, A. -
S. (2014a).Developing age-friendly cities:Case studies from Brussels and Manchester
and implications for policy and practice. Journal of Aging and Social Policy,26,52–72.
Buffel, T., Phillipson, C., & Scharf, T. (2013). Experiences of neighbourhood exclusion and
inclusion among older people living in deprived inner-city areas in Belgium and En-
gland. Ageing & Society,33 (Special Issue 01), 89–109. http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/
Burns, V. F., Lavoie, J. P., & Rose, D. (2012). Revisiting the role of neighbourhood change in
social exclusion and inclusion of older people.Journal of Aging Research.http://dx.doi.
org/10.1155/2012/148287 Available onlineat http://www.hindawi.com/journals/jar/
2012/148287/ [Accessed 6th of March 2014].
Center for an Urban Future (2013). The new face of New York's seniors. New York: Centre
for an Urban Future.
Clarke, B. (2014). The age of ageing: Barcelona's growing elderly population. Society &
Science Available online at http://www.catalannewsagency.com/society-science/
item/the-age-of-ageing-barcelona-s-growing-elderly-population [accessed 30th of
Cox, E., Henderson, G., & Baker,R. (2014). Silver cities: Realisingthe potential of our growing
older population. Manchester: Institute of Public Policy North.
Crookes, L. (2012). The making of space and the losing of space: A critical geography of
gentriﬁcation by bulldozer in the north-east of England. In B. Tunstall (Ed.), Breaking
up communities? The social impact of housing demolition in the late-20th century.York:
Davis, M. (2006). Planet of slums. London: Verso.
Deen, S. (2012). An evaluation of housing regeneration: The Manchester, Salford housing
market renewal pathﬁnder. master's dissertation. School of Environment, Education
and Development: The University of Manchester.
Erwert, A. M. (2014). S.F. rentsup more than 3 times higher than national average. Avail-
able online at http://b log.sfgate.com/ontheblock/2014/01/30/s-f-rents-up-more-
than-3-times-higher-than-national-average/#20080 101=0 &20081103=
Fitzgerald, K. G., & Caro, F. (2016). An overview of age-friendly cities and communities
around the world. Journal of Aging and Social Policy,26,1–18. http://dx.doi.org/10.
Galcanova, L., & Sykorova, D. (2015). Socio-spatial aspects of ageing in an urban context:
An example from three Czech Republic cities. Ageing & Society,35,1200–1220. http://
Garon, S.,Paris, M., Lalibertė, A., Veil,A., & Beaulieu, M. (2016). Age-friendly city in Quebec
(Canada), or “alone it goes fa ster, together it goes fur ther. 2016 In G. Caro, & K.
Fitzgerald (Eds.), International perspectives on age-friendly cities (pp. 119–136). New
Gehl, J. (2010). Cities for Europe. London: Island Press.
Glicksman, A., & Ring, L. (2016). The environment of environmental change: The impact
of city realities on the success of age-friendly programs. (2016) In G. Caro, & K.
Fitzgerald (Eds.), International perspectives on age-friendly cities (pp. 154–170). New
Golant, S. (2014). Age-friendly communities: Are we expecting too much. Montreal: IRRP
Gottdiener, M., Hutchison, R., & Ryan, M. (2015). The new urban sociology. Boulder, CO:
Handler, S. (2015). An alternative age-friendly handbook. Manchester: University of Man-
Harvey, D. (1982). The urban process under capitalism: A framework for analysis. In M.
Dear, & A. Scott (Eds.), Urbanization and ur ban planning in capitalist society
Harvey, D. (2008). Right to the city. New Left Review,53(September/October), 23–42.
Harvey, D. (2012). Rebel cities: From the right to the city to the urban revolution. London:
Hastings,A., Bailey, W., Bramley, G., Gannon, M., & Watkins, D. (2015). The cost of the cuts:
The impact on local government and poorer communities.York: Joseph Rowntree Trust.
ILC/Centre for Later Life Funding (2015). At a cross-roads: The future likelihood of low in-
comes in old age. London: ILC-UK.
Kendig, H., Elias, A. -M., Majwijiw, P., & Anstey, K. (2014). Developing age-friendly cities
and communities in Australia. Journal of Aging and Health,26(8), 1390–1414. http://
Lui, C. W., Everingham, J.A., Warburton, J., Cuthill, M., & Bartlett, H. (2009). What makesa
community age-friendly: A review of international literature. Australian Journal on
Ageing,28(3), 116–121. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1741-6612.2009.00355.x.
McGarry, P., & Morris, J. (2011). A great place to grow older: a case study of how Man-
chester is developing an age-friendly city. Working with Older People,15(1), 38–46.
Menec, V. H., Means, R., Keating, N., Parkhurst, G., & Eales, J. (2011). Conceptualizing age-
friendly communities. Canadian Journal on Aging,30, 479–493. http://dx.doi.org/10.
Minton, A. (2009). Ground control: Fear and happiness in the twenty-ﬁrst cen tury city.
London: Penguin Books.
Moulaert, T., & Garon, S. (2016). Age-friendly cities and communities in international com-
parison. Political lessons, scientiﬁc avenues, and democratic issues. New York: Springer.
Navarro, M., & Yee, V. (2014). Up in years and all but priced out of New York. New York
Times (April 24).
Ofﬁce of the Comptroller (2014). The growing gap: New York City's housing affordability
challenge. New York: Ofﬁce of the Comptroller.
Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development (2015). Ageing in cities. Paris:
Phillipson, C. (2007). The‘elected’and the ‘excluded’: Sociological perspectives on the ex-
perience of place and community in old age. Ageing & Society,27,321–342. http://dx.
Phillipson, C. (2011). Developing age-friendly communities: new approaches to growing
old in urban environments. In J. L. Angel, & Settersten R. (Eds.), Handbook of the soci-
ology of aging. New York: Springer, Verlag.
Phillipson, C. (2013). Ageing. Cambridge: Polity Press.
Portacolone, E., & Halpern, J. (2014). “Move or suffer”is age-segregationthe new norm for
older Americans living alone? Journal of Applied Gerontology.http://dx.doi.org/10.
Riseborough, M., & Sribjilanin, A. (2000).Overlooked and excluded? Older people and regen-
eration: A review of policy and practice. London: Age Concern England.
Rodwin, G., & Gusmano, M. (Eds.). (2006). Growing older in world cities. Nashville, TN:
Rowles, G., & Chaudhury, H. (Eds.). (2005). Home and identity in later life: International
perspectives. New York: Springer Publishing Company.
Sassen, S. (2012). Cities in a world economy. London: Sage.
Scharlach, A. (2012). Creating age-friendly communities in the United States. Ageing
Internatio nal,37,25–38. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s12126-011-9140-1.
99T. Buffel, C. Phillipson / Cities 55 (2016) 94–100
Scharlach, A. E., & Lehning, A. J. (2013). Ageing-friendly communities and social inclusion
in the United Statesof America. Ageing and Society,33,110–136. http://dx.doi.org/10.
Simpson, C. (2010). Older people and engagement in neighbourhood renewal: A qualitative
study of stoke-on-trent. Unpublished Ph.D Thesis Keele: Keele University.
Smith, A. (2009). Ageing in urban neighbourhoods. Bristol: Policy Press.
Soja, E. (2010). Seeking spatial justice. Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press.
Steels, S. (2015). Key characteristics of age-friendly cities and communities: A review.
Tinker, A., & Ginn, J. (2015). An age-friendly city —How far has London come? London:
Turcu, C. (2012). Local experiences of urban sustainability: Researching housing market
renewal interventions in three English neighbourhoods. Progress in Planning,
UN-HABITAT (2012). State of the world's cities 2012/2013. New York, NY: UN habitat. Divide.
World Health Organization (2007). Global age-friendly cities:A guide. Geneva: WHO Press.
Vanderbeck, R. M., & Worth, N. (Eds.). (2015). Intergenerational space. London: Routledge.
Walsh, K. (2015). Interrogating the “age-friendly”community in austerity: Myths, reali-
ties and the inﬂuence of place context. In K. Walsh, G. Carney, & A. Lèime (Eds.), Age-
ing through austerity. Bristol: Policy Press.
Wiles, J., Leibing, A., Guberman, N., Reeve, J., & Allen, R. (2012). The meaning of ‘aging in
place’to older people. The Gerontologists,52(3), 357–366. http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/
Wilson, W. (2013). Housing market renewal pathﬁnders. London: Library of the House of
Zukin, S. (2010). The Naked city: The Death and life of authentic urban places. New York:
Oxford University Press.
100 T. Buffel, C. Phillipson / Cities 55 (2016) 94–100