Creating a city for all ages

Not all Canberrans choose a sea or tree change in retirement. An increasing number of people are deciding to stay put.

In fact, by 2023, 15 per cent of Canberra’s population will be over 65.

When we think of ‘growing older’ we tend to focus on health and social care issues – but the built environment has a significant impact on the mobility, independence and quality of life experienced by older Canberrans.

Low-density living, a characteristic of the nation’s capital, is not particularly age-friendly. Safe pedestrian networks, easy access to shops and services, a mix of housing options, nearby health centres and recreational facilities – these are all elements that can positively affect the ageing process and help Canberrans stay connected with their community.

And by looking through our city through the eyes of an older person, we can make Canberra more accessible. Narrow, uneven or cracked pavements are potential hazards for older people.  So too are cars parked haphazardly, pedestrian crossing lights that change too quickly, and a lack of separate lanes for cyclists.

Urban areas and parks without rest areas can discourage seniors from getting around. Public facilities and shops located far away from where seniors live and without adequate transport can deter them from maintaining an active life in the community.

And retirement living options positioned only on a city’s fringes can leave older people with no choice but to remain in houses that are far too big, but are within the communities they know and love.

The growing number of older people in our society should not be a cause for alarm, but should be celebrated as a great social achievement. While some older people do have significant care needs, many retired people possess and wealth of knowledge and experience, time and energy, as well as their own financial resources, to contribute to building a better Canberra for everyone.

Canberra’s property industry will be getting together to explore how we create an age-friendly city for everyone at a Retirement Living Forum on Thursday 27 August.  

Catherine Carter is ACT Executive Director of the Property Council of Australia