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Belfast Healthy Cities

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Healthy Cities 21st Century

Walkability Assessment for Healthy Ageing Report Assesses Accessibility for Older People in the City

Walkability Assessment report

The world is experiencing a rapidly ageing population. Recognising this trend in 2005, the World Health Organization (WHO) Global Network of Age-friendly Cities and Communities was established. Its purpose is to provide a new approach to ensure older people’s needs are met and promote active ageing. Its focus is on creating an environment where older people continue to participate in social, economic, cultural, spiritual and civic affairs.

This report gives an overview of a pilot project which developed an age-friendly assessment tool to gauge how accessible the built environment is for older people, conducted as part of Belfast’s application to be a WHO Age-friendly city. This pilot project, carried out in consultation with the Healthy Ageing Strategic Partnership (HASP), demonstrates a way of engaging with older people to gain their opinions and use their experience and knowledge to progress the city towards its goal as an age-friendly city. It engaged local older people to assess the walking environment in their area, using a tool developed following a review of relevant models and literature.

The report presents the tool and outlines findings from the project, including priority elements identified by older people as essential for an environment that encourages and supports older people to remain active. Recommendations from the report outline key areas for action, including suggestions for how local government can involve older people in the design of their city.

Engagement with older people is important to ensure needs are understood and older people’s knowledge and lay expertise utilised. Evidence also shows that systematic assessment of the environment forms part of effective decision making. The next step for this project is to explore options for validating the tool, through engagement with academic partners and further piloting. It is intended this will create a tool for use across Belfast as an age-friendly city.

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