Australia was among the first countries to contribute in the World Health Organization's (WHO) pioneering age-friendly cities and communities (AFCC) strategy, with ongoing engagement through to the landmark ageing and health report (WHO, 2015). This chapter presents a critical overview of Australian initiatives ensuing from the following seminal WHO statement:
An age-friendly city encourages active ageing by optimizing opportunities for health, participation and security in order to enhance quality of life as people age. In practical terms, an age-friendly city adapts its structures and services to be accessible to and inclusive of older people with varying needs and capacities. (WHO, 2007, p 1)
The WHO's age-friendly cities (AFC) guide and checklist have provided practical directions for local action on behalf of older Australians in the eight priority areas of urban living: outdoor spaces and buildings, transportation, housing, social participation, respect and social inclusion, civic participation and employment, communication and information, and community support and health services (later amended to include lifelong learning and sustainability) (WHO, 2007). The focus of this chapter is on understanding Australian efforts to apply the AFC approach of bringing ‘bottom-up’ community perspectives into whole-of-government responses to ageing. This includes efforts to develop learning and action partnerships between government, communities and university researchers.
The chapter begins by briefly reviewing the evolution of Australia's ageing population and spatial structures, including the increasing diversity of the population. We then consider evidence on the liveability of Australian cities, especially for disadvantaged older people, inclusive of the widely used but ambiguous concept of ‘ageing in place’. The chapter then provides a critical review of AFC initiatives, comparing Sydney, Melbourne, and Canberra in a state and national context. While there has been valuable AFC work in other cities and nonmetropolitan areas, we concentrate on these three capital cities in order to better focus and integrate the discussion. The chapter critically assesses the challenges of implementing age-friendly approaches and concludes with an assessment of achievements and prospects for the future.
An ageing Australia and urban change
Australia is an advanced, industrial society that in contrast to Europe has been advantaged by decades of economic and population growth and rising real incomes.