Sustainable Cities™

New York: An Age-Friendly City

Long emblematic of youth, energy, and fast-paced life, New York City has embraced the challenge of becoming more ‘age-friendly.’ The collaborative efforts of a variety of municipal departments will help the city to address the needs of its growing elderly population in ways that will physically transform the city.

Flere offentlige hvilepladser skal gøre New York til en mere imødekommende by for ældre. Foto: Signe Cecilie

New York City has developed a framework for its age-friendly initiatives, entitled Age-friendly NYC, based on the World Health Organization (WHO)'s Global Age-Friendly Cities Programme. New York City's model arose from collaboration between Mayor Michael Bloomberg; Council Speaker Christine Quinn; and the New York Academy of Medicine, a non-governmental organization (NGO) that works to advance the health of people in cities. Together they aim not only to improve New York's livability for residents over 65 but also to allow the city to harness the enormous resources that elderly residents can contribute.

The process began in 2007 when the New York Academy of Medicine entered into discussions with the City Council and the Bloomberg administration to secure the financial and political support needed to apply WHO's age-friendly cities program to New York City. Together they launched a city-wide investigation to determine the current status of New York's elderly residents. Public participation was an essential element of this preliminary stage, and investigators held city hall meetings, launched a website with information about the project, and issued a formal "Request for Information." They also hosted a number of roundtable discussions with experts in all areas of city planning.

The findings of this investigation led to the development of 59 age-friendly initiatives for the City of New York. Planners targeted eight areas of city life: outdoor spaces and buildings, transportation, housing, respect and social inclusion, social participation, communication and information, civic participation and employment, community support and health services. New York will see a physical transformation as a result of these efforts. The city will receive more seating in bus shelters, more public restrooms, and more elevators and escalators. Certain parks will be dubbed age-friendly. And traffic planners will improve the safety of street intersections, increasing the time allotted for pedestrian crossing in order to ensure that elderly residents are not caught in oncoming traffic. Other initiatives include providing elderly residents with buses to grocery stores, with more volunteer opportunities around the city, and with discounts at local fitness clubs. 

                                Planners will improve the safety of street intersections, increasing the time allotted for pedestrian crossing the street.

City officials are working to create two "aging improvement districts," one in East Harlem and the other on the Upper West Side, that will be especially amenable to elderly inhabitants. Initiatives in these districts will be spearheaded by the New York Academy of Medicine, later by community groups, and will eventually be expanded to other neighborhoods in the city. The New York Academy of Medicine will also create an "Age-Friendly New York City Commission" to facilitate continued collaboration between the New York City municipal government, non-governmental organisations, and private enterprises. The Commission will work to ensure that city planners continue to address the needs of the over-65 population.

In developing specific strategies and projects, city officials were careful to remain in touch with the needs of actual New Yorkers. For example, during the initial investigations, planners discovered that health and social problems among the city's elderly residents were associated with more than just income or ethnicity; instead, factors such as linguistic or cultural isolation and non-traditional family situations also played a significant role. City officials responded accordingly, publishing linguistically appropriate materials and providing special assistance to grandparents who serve as the primary caregivers of their grandchildren. Above all, city officials want to ensure that elderly residents are able to enjoy the delights of New York throughout their 60's, 70's, 80's, and even 90's, as they age gracefully in their city homes.

Last updated Tuesday, January 21, 2014