Ageing and life-course

Age-friendly environments

Old woman walking into a public bus
Akita City

Health and well-being are determined not only by our genes and personal characteristics but also by the physical and social environments in which we live our lives.

Environments play an important role in determining our physical and mental capacity across a person’s life course and into older age and also how well we adjust to loss of function and other forms of adversity that we may experience at different stages of life, and in particular in later years. Both older people and the environments in which they live are diverse, dynamic and changing. In interaction with each other they hold incredible potential for enabling or constraining Healthy Ageing.

Cities and communities around the world are working towards becoming more age-friendly. The WHO Global Network consists of more than 830 cities and communities in 41 countries, working to improve their physical and social environments to become better places in which to grow old.

Elder abuse

The abuse of older adults is sadly all too common, and little evidence exists as to the prevalence, causes, or what works to prevent abuse. WHO advocates for awareness and knowledge on elder abuse and directly supports research. WHO also supports regions in developing policies to address elder abuse.

Sharing ideas and experience is critical to spread knowledge and build on what works. WHO supports an online platform, Age-friendly World, that allows sharing of ideas, resources, and best practices on developing age-friendly environments.

What WHO is doing to create age-friendly environments

Creating environments that are truly age-friendly requires action in many sectors: health, long-term care, transport, housing, labour, social protection, information and communication, and by many actors – government, service providers, civil society, older people and their organizations, families and friends. It also requires action at multiple levels of government. The following key approaches are relevant to all stakeholders:

  • combat ageism;
  • enable autonomy;
  • support Healthy Ageing in all policies at all levels.

WHO raises awareness on the importance of environments in determining Healthy Ageing and encourages the creation of age-friendly environments by:

  • compiling evidence based guidance on age-friendly environments;
  • providing an information platform for sharing of information and experience; and
  • nurturing and developing the WHO Global Network for Age-friendly Cities and Communities.