Age-Friendly Cities


Well, what is an age-friendly city? How should they be created and for whom they serve? In fact, it is difficult to find a universal definition of age-friendly cities that aim to ensure the healthy and active aging of the elderly population. When it is looked from a broad perspective, age-friendly cities are places beginning to take action with the needs of the elderly in housing, and then taking the steps of constructing a social environment to which the elderly can also participate in the social sense by considering their adaptability with the housing structure and environment, seeking for ways of aging actively and properly, preventing social isolation as the elderly could exist in everyday practices, and their all kinds of carefully planned social, economic and spatial dimensions. The World Health Organization has prepared a guide for age-friendly cities to form a framework for the construction of these cities shaped by cultural and geographical differences and eight urban areas that must be present in these cities were determined. These specified areas urge a relatively flexible definition by indicating the possible need maps of age-friendly cities.

Age Friendly City Applications around the World
The main urban areas identified by the World Health Organization are related to the physical environment. These are land use designs, urban design in micro level and transportation system. Physical environment conditions will differ from one region to another like other designated urban areas. For example, the first steps to becoming an age-friendly city are housing, restructuring and design in Slovenia  and Manchester. It is essential that the housings that the elderly are living in should be in safe areas and have easy access to important pıoints such as hospitals and parks. Safe passageways, pavements and walking trails for pedestrians are only some of the physical environment requirements. In addition to these, other underlined issues are payable housing and providing necessary modifications inside the house. Social participation, respect and social inclusion, urban participation and employment are three issues followed by the provision of physical environment and conditions. Although a healthy physical environment is a reinforcing force that enables the elderly to exist in society, additional opportunities should be established to provide social participation. Employment opportunities need to be increased especially within the scope of active aging. Working hours and workplace conditions of working elders should be reasonably regulated. A range of accessible and well-planned activities should be arranged to increase social inclusion. Participation is one of the most highlighted issues in the practice of the age-friendly city in Canada-Quebec. Quebec that wants to act cooperatively with the elderly carries out collaborative practices after identifying the needs of the elderly and rejects the top-down approach performed in East Asian age-friendly cities under the influence of collectivism. Age-friendly cities are thought to be more productive with a governance approach in Quebec example.

The last two urban areas determined by the World Health Organization are related to communication and information, social support and health services. The participatory structure of age-friendly cities will strengthen the network of communication and information. What is more, continuity of communication and information network will be provided by ensuring computer and internet access in public spaces, preparing need maps using large samples and carrying out both physical environment and planning and programs through consultation and informing. In addition, improving the health conditions of the elderly, paying attention to cleanliness of open areas and increasing green-fields are the requirements that should be followed by age-friendly cities. To conclude, the comprehensiveness of age-friendly cities should be stressed by mentioning about “lifelong houses” and “lifelong quarters” frequently addressed in the literature for the age-friendly cities’ gaining a sustainable qualification. “Lifelong houses” and “lifelong quarters” are the components of age-friendly cities and they enable an approach shaping from bottom to up while aiming the elderly to remain active and independent inside the city. The governance-oriented approach of fulfilling the housing needs of age-friendly cities, easy access to services, the realization of security and social inclusion indicate not only the planning of urban environment for the elderly but also a city design possible for everyone with lifelong quarters.

By: Hamdüsena Eşrefoğlu


Global Network for Age-friendly Cities and Communities

Global Network for Age-friendly Cities and Communities is a network established by the World Health Organization in 2010 for the purpose of encouraging sharing of experience and mutual learning between cities and communities across the world. This is one of the important steps taken against the aging of the global population and high-speed urbanization. In this respect, this manner has aimed to establish a link between cities and communities within it, enhance worldwide know-how by sharing, and support its members to generate innovative and concrete solutions. Although network membership does not mean that the said city/community is accepted by the World Health Organization as age-friendly, this indicates that it has entered the process of having this status.

Healthy and Active Aging
Global Network for Age-friendly Cities and Communities that contains cities and communities of different sizes from different parts of the world brings together those seeking to become more age-friendly. The network includes cities and communities supporting healthy and active aging, encouraging a quality life and having different cultural and socioeconomic characteristics. All local governments that have decided to become more age-friendly can join the network. National membership is not currently accepted. Local governments desiring to join the network are not expected to be age-friendly but they are required to promise to work in this manner. Members that have undertaken to become age-friendly, working in this respect, and sharing their experiences with other members remain a part of the network. Well, what are the advantages of being a member of this network? Access to a global information sharing pool is one of the leading advantages. Other advantages of being supported by a global network that is committed to supporting age-friendly environments, obtaining visibility on the official web site of the World Health Organization where activities and achievements can be presented, establishing international cooperation are important points that cannot be ignored for being an age-friendly city in a world where the population is aging rapidly. The prevalence and total number of cities and communities that are currently benefiting from all these advantages are also remarkable. As of April 2019, the Global Network for Age-Friendly Cities and Communities includes 833 cities and communities in 41 countries. This corresponds to more than 229 million people worldwide.

There are also three members from Turkey in this network with members from many countries from the United States to Uruguay and from Iran to Peru. Muratpasa Municipality from the province of Antalya became the first member of the network from Turkey in 2014. Kadikoy Municipality, one of the most long-established districts of Istanbul, joined the network in 2016 and Mersin followed it by being a member in 2018. Considering that number of elderly residents in our cities is increasing each passing day and this is expected to continue as a trend, the need of increasing our cities and communities that are members of this network stands as an issue to be considered. 

By: Büşra Turan


Active Aging

2012 was selected as “Active Aging and Intergenerational Solidarity Year “in Europe. 2019 was declared as the “Year of Elders” in Turkey and active aging has come up as an important title.

What is Active Aging?
Active aging according to the G8 Summit in 1997:

  • Reflects the desires and competencies of elderly and aging adults to continue their relations with life in economic and social respects.
  • More than encouraging paid work: It has different social and political dimensions, including education and free time.

Activities indicated by active aging at the G8 Summit accept all activities performed by elderly adults as important such as all kinds of voluntary work with or without formal record, all kinds of support for their families, neighbours and friends concerning home and child care, all kinds of participation regarding social respect and urge that these should be supported by the society.

What is Not Active Aging?
Let’s look at the theoretical and practical historical development of active aging (2): The “successful aging’ approach dating back to the 1960s points out the completion of the regression in the roles held as a parent and social roles and relationships following the retirement by leaving paid employment after middle age and children’s reaching adulthood through new relationship, activity and ways ensuring life satisfaction. The theory of successful aging has been developed as a critical response to the theory of retreat, which sees old age as a compulsory loss of social roles and relationships. In the 1980s, studies that based on the aging process itself began to be conducted rather than the ones focusing on elderly and chronological age. Accordingly, although a positive attitude towards aging was taken, the economy-based “productive aging” approach emerged. In the 1990s, a more comprehensive concept of active aging began to develop under the leadership of World Health Organization and this understanding was based on the link between healthy living and being active and did not only focus on the business and production market but also paid attention to social participation. This process was furthered by the G8 Summit in 1997. As it is seen, an attitude that connects the satisfaction of an individual’s life to his/her active life in the old age is quite inadequate to address the content of active aging (1). Only an economically oriented approach is not enough and social dimensions should be considered. In this regard, experiences of elderly people who face restrictions such as health and economic conditions and immigration status in terms of politics should be considered. All in all, the key point to consider when talking about active aging is the fact that each individual has a different life experience.

How Active Aging Should Be Handled in Policies?
It is a significant point that active aging should not be limited to economic context but it should be considered in both theoretical and scientific studies and policy-making processes. It is also critical in the success of active aging practices that cooperation between the individual and the society in which he/she lives should be provided, the state should ensure the necessary resources by taking on a motivating role and encourage active aging, provide social and economic adaptation of elderly individuals. Walker (2006) has specified seven basic principles for this sensitivity:

  • Activity is more than paid work and should include all kinds of activities that can contribute to the life satisfaction of the individual.
  • Active aging policies should target not only the present generation of the elderly, but also the next generations, that is the ones growing old with the elderly.
  • The discrimination between different elderly groups has dangers in itself, elderly people who need support and care in their daily lives should also be included.
  • Providing intergenerational solidarity should be an important point in the modern active aging approach.
  • Active aging should include both rights and responsibilities.
  • The active aging strategy should provide new opportunities for participation and reinforce existing participation.
  • Active aging must respect national and cultural diversity.

By: Ferhan Saniye Palaz



The Conditions Of Elders In Istanbul

1 million 99 thousand 348 elderly people live in Istanbul according to the census conducted in 2018. This number corresponds to 6.68% of 15 million population of Istanbul.  57% of this number is female and 42% is male. The first five districts where the elderly population lives at the highest ratio in Istanbul are Kadikoy 9,44(%), Adalar 8,67(%), Sile 8,59(%), Besiktas (7,55%) and Bakirkoy (7,17%), respectively. The districts where the elderly live least are Esenyurt (1,54%), Sultanbeyli (1,55%), Sancaktepe (1,64%), Basaksehir (1,74%) and Sultangazi (1,87%). As is seen, the elderly population is higher in the old settlements of Istanbul. However, the rate of elderly people is also high in fringe districts such as Catalca and Sile. The reason for this is the existence of rural settlements in these districts. The districts where the elderly population live in the least rate are the ones established by migration. Esenyurt, Sultanbeyli and Sancaktepe, which are among the regions allowing immigrants intensively from Anatolian cities in the post-1980 period, are the districts with the lowest rate of elderly population in the 1980s (TSI, 2018).

The number of elderly in Istanbul population by years (TSI, 2018)

As can be understood from the graph, the number of elderly people living in Istanbul increased by more than 200 thousand in the last ten years. Considering that life expectancy at birth is 75,8 for Istanbul, this increase is expected to enhance in the following years.17.2% of households in Istanbul have elderly people. The rate of elderly living alone is reported as 3.5%. 78.1% of the elderly living alone in Istanbul are women. This increase in the number of elderly women living alone is striking due to the long life expectancy of female elders. According to a study conducted by the Ministry of Family and Social Policies in 2013, findings of the life choices of the elderly in Istanbul will help to understand where the elderly want to live. According to this study, the ratio of their choices of staying is as follows: 34,6 % of elderly people stated that “I would stay with my son”, 33,9% “I would take home care services”, 15,9% “I would settle into old age asylum”, 11,3% “I would stay with my daughter” (TAYA, 2013).

The Involvement of the Elderly with Urban/Public spaces 
When we look at how elderly people continue their daily lives, we see that the habits such as engaging in worship, going to the coffee, doing exercise, handiwork are the activities shaping the daily lives of the elderly. Besides, as to the relationship between the elderly and the urban/public space, their frequency of going to the cinema or theatre is low. Their frequency of going to visit is relatively higher. It is observed that elderly people often prefer to travel and walk (Otrar&Kurtkapan, 2015, s. 181). The status of the elderly should be well established in the life rhythm of Istanbul, which is a metropolis and in this sense, we should imagine a city that provides opportunities for the elderly in interaction with the city. Equal use and accessibility should be the most fundamental principles to be considered in urban design.

By: Furkan Başarslan



Aging in Turkey in Numbers

The increase in life expectancy along with the developments in the field of medicine has increased the rate of elderly people in our population. Historically, according to the data recorded in 1935, while 3.9% of Turkey’s population of about 16 million was elderly, the share of the elderly population in the 82 million population reached 8.8% in 2018. This rate corresponds to 7 million 186 thousand 204 people. According to the population projection of TSI, the elderly population is expected to increase to 10.2% in 2023, to 16.3% in 2040, to 22.6% in 2060 and to 25.6% in 2080.

Share of Elderly Population in Total Population by Years (TSI, 2018)

44.1% of elderly living in Turkey are male, while 55.92% are female in 2018. The high rate of female elderly people can be explained by the differentiation of life expectancy at birth in accordance with gender. While the life expectancy of males in our country was 75.3 years and it was 80.8 years for females. It is estimated to be 17.7 years for individuals whose expected life expectancy reached 65 years of age. This increase in life expectancy indicates that the old age covers long years in human life and indicates the need for the elderly to be involved in the active aging process. Considering the cities, the first five cities with the highest life expectancy at birth are listed as follows: Tunceli (80,7), Mugla (80,3), Trabzon (80,0), Mardin (79,8) and Gumushane (79,8). Places, where the expected life expectancy is the lowest in the city basis, are Kilis (76,1), Agri (76,8), Kutahya (76,8), Ardahan (76,9) and Gaziantep (76,9). A majority of elderly people in Turkey live in urban areas (86.01%). The number of elderly living in rural areas is relatively low (13.98%). Most elderly live in the provinces in Turkey are respectively; Istanbul (1.006.545), Izmir (470.098), Ankara (453,824), Bursa (267.226), Konya (201.451). This ranking shows that the number of elderly people in provinces with the highest population is also high. Another data that can be considered together with this data is the proportion of the elderly within the total population of the cities. According to this data, the first five cities with the highest proportions of elderly are as follows respectively: Sinop (%22,19), Kastamonu (%20,79), Artvin (%18,84), Giresun (%18,81) and Corum (%18,34) (TSI, 2018). The first five cities with the lowest proportions of elderly are as follows respectively: Hakkari (%4,59), Sirnak (%5,025), Van (%5,86), Sanliurfa (%6,39) and Batman (%6,69). When looking at the country in general, it is possible to say that the elderly population is proportionally less in Eastern cities. There is a higher proportion of elderly people living in the Black Sea and Central Anatolia Regions.

Correlation between Aging and Education Level
Education level is one of the important variables to address elderliness and aging in a meaningful way. 43.8% of the elderly are primary school graduates. The illiteracy proportion of elderly is 19,2%. The proportion of elderly who completed a college or faculty is 5,44% (TSI, 2017). The proportion of elderly people living alone in Turkey are 5.4%. Most of the elderly people want to live with their children (40.2%). The proportion of elderly people who want to receive home care services is 38,6% while 7,7% of them want to stay in an old age asylum(TSI, 2016).

Life Satisfaction at Old Age
According to TSI’s Life Satisfaction Investigation in 2017, happiness levels of individuals aged 65 and over are as follows: 5,68% very happy, 55,52% happy, 26,75% happy at the middle level, 10,5% were unhappy and 1,55% very unhappy. It is urged in the evaluations made about this subject that high happiness levels of elderly people can be explained by the concept of austerity. When the happiness resources of the elderly people are examined, health is in the first place with the proportion of 83,53% and love follows it by 9,62%. The aging population of Turkey creates an important field of study as a social fact that needs to be addressed with all its dimensions by producing services for it. We should make room for our elders in the social and economic domains by considering aging as a stage of life and an active aging process should be supported.

By: Furkan Başarslan


Aging In The World

Statistics on the Elderly Population in the World: Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow

  • According to the report of United Nations titled “Aging Population in the World 2017”, while the population over 60 years of age was 382 million in 1980 all over the world, it doubled in 2017 reaching 962 million. It is expected to double again in 2050 and rise to 2.1 billion.
  • In 2030, the elderly population is expected to be 1.41 billion and 10 million more than the child population up to the age of 10 years.
  • In 2050, it is estimated that the population aged 60 and over would be 100 million more than the young population of 10-24 years of age with its 2.1 billion population.
  • While the population aged 80 and over was 137 million in 2017, it is expected to triple by 425 million in 2050.

Most of the Elderly Population is in Developing Regions

  • Two-thirds of the elderly live in developing regions in the world and this ratio is expected to be 8 out of every 10 elderly by 2050.
  • The aging of the population takes place all over the world and decreasing birth rates are the result of prolonging life.
  • Population aging is farthest in North America and Europe: more than one person in every 5 people is over 60 years of age in 2017.
  • The whole world is getting older: In 2050, 35% of Europe, 28% of North America, 25% of Latin America and the Caribbean, 24% of Asia, 23% of Oceania and Africa 9% will be elderly.

Who does the elderly live with? What are their rates of living alone?

  • The rate of self-directed living of the population 60 years and over is quite diverse in 143 countries and regions about which we have data. The UN refers to the fact that the elderly individual lives alone or only with his wife that is children are not at households when addressing self-directed living. This rate is lowest in Afghanistan with 2.3% and highest in the Netherlands with 93.4%.
  • In 2010, more than half of the population aged 60 and over lives with at least one of their children in Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, this rate is 20% in Europe and North America.
  • The possibility of elderly women’s living alone is higher than elderly men. The possibility of elderly women’s living alone is two times more than elderly men in both Africa and Europe.
  • According to data from 67 countries, self-directed life has increased among the elderly in recent decades: While it was 24% in 1990, it became 37% in 2010. Living with children fell from 65% in 1990 to 53% in 2010.


How is the aging of the population reflected policies?

As the average age of the population continues to rise all over the world, all governments have to produce policies targeting the needs of elderly and aging individuals. Some of these needs may be ranked as follows: 1) Providing appropriate housing, 2) Creating sufficient employment, 3) Adequate health and care services, 4) Ensuring social protection and 5) Establishing intergenerational relations.

By: Ferhan Saniye Palaz


Urban Transformation:  Is it a Threat or Opportunity for Elders ?

Urban transformation is one of the important agenda for metropolises of today. Urban transformation works that aim to increase the quality of the built environment in rapidly developing and populated cities can be realized by public and private sectors. Urban transformation which is a result of structural changes of urban economies, can be positioned as a means that capital creates itself. What is more, in the transition from production to the service sector, meeting the housing demands of the new middle and upper classes living in the cities may be possible with urban transformation. While capital reproduces itself through urban transformation, it also determines the settlement practices of different social groups in the city. The demolishing of the built environment that has developed organically in the city over time is in question during urban transformation practices in which both building and destruction are performed in principle. The elderly are among the groups that are most affected by these demolitions. It is not only buildings that are demolished by urban transformation, but also the past created by memories for the elderly having a tight connection to the place and the social relations that form this place. As the time spent in the place increases, belonging and attachment rises, too. This situation is important for memories as well as familiarity. Being familiar with the place, people, built and natural environment is a feature that facilitates everyday life practices, makes people feel safe and even at home. If you live especially in a metropolis or metropolitan area, people’s seeking confidence gains importance as you get older.

The familiarity and the close relationship established with place significantly facilitate the use of public space as you get older. Considering that one of the most important issues in terms of active aging is public space practices and their usage, it gains importance that how urban transformation transforms public spaces and at what level it has an influence on everyday life. Changes may be lived concerning not only the buildings but also street, main street and neighbourhood through urban transformation and familiar, continuously experienced public spaces and practices can be removed from the life of the elderly individual. Although the construction of a new socio-spatial environment provides convenience in terms of accessibility and ease of use, they may not replace the practices and spatial relations that occur in time. In this context, urban transformation can affect the social relations of the elderly with and on space negatively and can take away from an active aging experience.

The Relationship Between Spatial Environment and Active Aging
On the other hand, the spatial framework that occurs due to the rapid development of the city can make the daily life practices of the elderly difficult. Some of these are: Deficiencies and incorrect design practices in housing; inadequacy of equipment and facilities inside the building especially lift, stairs, entrance ramp; existing pavements’ being not walkable (highness, hole, suspended paving stones) and poor; rarity of places such as park, public restroom etc. and/or not suitable for the use of the elderly. This spatial environment should be of an age-friendly nature that will enable active aging. For this reason, some spatial arrangements need to be made. Urban transformation can be considered as an opportunity to make such arrangements. Urban transformation has the potential to be both a threat and an opportunity for the elderly. It’s being a threat for the elderly can be avoided by resisting the destructive pressures of capital and preventing it’s changing the socio-spatial environment completely. On the other hand, urban conditions can be created in which elderly individuals can actively age in their familiar places and without leaving social relations that generate that place, by using urban transformation as a tool for different spatial arrangements. Thus, urban transformation that is already seen as a threat to the elderly in existing practices may become an opportunity.

By: Murat Şentürk

*This article was  published in the  May– June issue of Marmara Life.

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