Since its inception in 2016 Cymru Older People’s Alliance (COPA) has embraced and promoted the concept of Age Friendly Communities (AFCs). This Position Paper sets out COPAs views on how this important concept should be strengthened and fully implemented in Wales.
The concept of age-friendly communities began with the publication of Global Age-Friendly Cities – A Guide by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in 2007. Since then, interest in the approach has grown internationally, leading to the development of UK and global networks of Age-Friendly Cities and Communities and the website Age-Friendly World.
In Wales, the concept was included in national policy through the Welsh Government’s Strategy for Older People 2013-23 (Stage 3) and supported by all Councils in Wales through the signing of the “Dublin Declaration” committing Councils to implement the principles of the Age Friendly Communities Framework.
Working with the Older People’s Commissioner, COPA published jointly in 2017 practical Guidance on “Making Wales a Nation of Age-friendly Communities”. An updated version was published in 2019.
The COP/COPA Guidance says “An age-friendly community is somewhere where local people come together to make life better for the people who live there, particularly as they age. It is a place where older people can live independently and continue to do the things that are important to them”.
Another example from Canada is “In an age friendly community, the policies, services and structures related to the physical and social environment are designed to help seniors ‘age actively’. In other words, the community is set up to help seniors live safely, enjoy good health and stay involved.”
Age Cymru have also published Policy Guidance on Creating an Age Friendly Wales https://www.ageuk.org.uk/cymru/our-work/age-friendly-wales/ that covers some of the domains of the AFC Framework and explains why it is important for older people and sets out the action needed
The main principles underpinning this approach are set out in a Framework of 8 domains covering:
- Outdoor space and public buildings
- Social Participation
- Respect and social inclusion
- Civic participation and employment
- Communication and information
- Community support and health services
What Do COPA Want to See Happen?
Whilst there are a few examples of communities that are striving to be Age Friendly in Wales, the concept has not been implemented systematically or substantially, largely because of the impact of austerity on Council resources and the reduction in funding available nationally for the Strategy for Older People in Wales. We want to see a fresh attempt to promote, invigorate and implement the concept of AFCs across all of Wales in a practical way that has meaning to older people.
We also want AFCs to be recognised as an essential starting point to ensuring that the civil and human rights of older people can be upheld in communities and through the services older people rely on to maintain their independence. Therefore, consideration should be given as to whether AFCs and the 8 Domains could be included within the developing Strategy for an Ageing Society due to be published for consultation in Autumn 2019.
It is essential that Welsh Government Ministers demonstrate strong leadership to implement AFCs effectively in Wales and use the revised Ministerial Advisory Forum on Ageing as a catalyst for change and to provide informed professional and practical advice on this issue. Additional resources for local authorities to implement AFCs and the Strategy for an Ageing Society should be prioritised.
We want every Council in Wales to revisit their commitment to the Dublin Declaration and to work with the Commissioner for Older People and local older people’s Forums in their area to make the concept of AFCs a reality.
We want to see the final version of the National Development Framework 2020-2040 to recognise Age Friendly and Dementia Friendly Communities as one of its formal outcomes so that Planning Authorities support this concept.
COPA will continue to show its commitment to the creation of AFCs and through its Trustees and Voting Members will support development work through attendance at meetings, commenting on papers and evaluating progress through contact with local forums.
COPA, October 2019.