Age Friendly Cities

Imagine a city that offers the elderly opportunities  where physical and mental disabilities are not an obstacle, where you can live your final years with grace and dignity? That is what is being proposed in Valdivia, in southern Chile. And if it works they hope to expend it to the rest of the country. Chile not only has a problem with the percentage of its population which is elderly, it is a percentage which is usually poor. The allowance from the government is too small to enable people to pay rent, food, heating fuel, medical care and other necessities. The article in the Guardian quoted an elderly person saying they stayed in bed during the winter because it was too cold and he had no money to pay for gas to heat his place. Chile has millionaires and even billionaires, but most people earn little, and their pension if they have any is small. They tried a kind of nursing home but it was ill or badly managed, and with little or no government resources, people there were not able to fare well.  Other countries are trying to make adjustments for their older citizens. Singapore is making it easier for older people to be hired and work. The Netherlands offers the elderly an app so they can essentially hack into traffic lights to adjust them to their speed.  Many elderly have mobility problems and could be harmed were the timing of traffic lights remain what they are for motorists. In London several communities have been declared dementia friendly by the Alzheimer’s association. Local residents are taught to help the elderly particularly those with dementia who may forget or not recognize where they are. Businesses are dementia friendly too and assist those in need. There are now 220 such communities in England and Wales. Such efforts point to the fact the US has a lot of catching up to do. 15% of its population is currently 65 or over and by 2060 it’s slated to grow to 24%. The needs of those 65 and over are and keep changing, yet given the values underneath a youth oriented culture, those needs can’t be addressed without a change of attitudes about aging and end of life.  It may be that to do that a reassessment of what life is about may have to be part of it.  And those of us who believe this is the direction for us to take need not wait. We can begin this process now.

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