Aging populations and cities
Research about age-inclusive cities in the face of demographic transitions.


Date begun
We have a method for project development and implementation at CITIES. To give a rough breakdown, it begins with research into a pressing global issue. Following careful analysis, we seek to implement replicable projects at the local level. With transparency and open, widespread communication as a central tenet, we use our research and hands-on implementation experience not only to better our local urban context but also to provide inspiration, ideas and blueprints as a springboard for others to use, tailor and implement in their local contexts.


Urban growth predictions have been disseminated so prominently it’s now a bit redundant to state. Regardless, it’s estimated that 70% of the world population will live in urban areas by 2050. This does not exclude a growing elderly demographic that is often overlooked in the flood of more new age innovative, inclusive and alternative urban planning processes continuously shaping our cities; however, perhaps we can better structure socio-spatial evolution to meet the shared preferences of more robust, vital, healthy, sustainable and connected cities.

Our new research journey into aging populations and cities is in response to these rapidly shifting urban demographic transitions that stand in the face of outdated and ill-equipped socio-spatial urban infrastructures. How can we innovate in areas such as accessibility, mobility, infrastructure, and physically and socially active lifestyles? How can aspects such as mixed-use, density, proximity and infrastructure help promote more healthy, happy, active, inclusive and connected cities? How can we design cities today to better include and suit tomorrow’s increasing elderly demographic?

It is evident that these questions have not yet been answered. Perhaps the best example is the gold standard of retirement: segregation. We see segregated aging communities around the world. Many of these places seek to deliver a sense of familiarity and small-town feel, structured around highly organized and numerous leisure activities and social opportunities accompanied by a safe, accessible and mobile environment. Some host more than 100,000 inhabitants – all aged over 55 years and still active (it is not a place for those who are inactive or experiencing serious health issues). This demographic marks a new identification in the elderly demographic: the young-old age group, as emphasized by architect Deane Simpson in his book Young-Old: Urban Utopias of an Aging Society, 2015.

Young-olds are technically elderly and often retired, yet still quite active physically and mentally. Once inactive, one is considered old-old. Segregated aging communities are often designed as some sort of Disneyland catering to young-olds.

Must we create such extensive and segregated caricatures of reality in order to offer active aging populations more robust life experiences? Or, can we learn from these communities and better invest in urban development that capitalizes on features such as proximity, density and happy, healthy, active residents. The latter opens opportunity for more sustainable, local and organic cities catering to all ages. Agglomerated global data helps us understand how contemporary tools and trends in urban planning and lifestyles can be used to better integrate aging populations in cities.


As mentioned, in time this global research is intended to fuel local project development and implementation. Now at the beginning of our journey, we invite you to join us. Koko Herder is heading up research at CITIES. Within this role, he is generating a series of articles tracking initial research findings. Each article will be published on CITIES’ website as a 'Featured Article' under 'Urban explorations'

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