Penalosa travels the world with a trenchant question that arose out of those experiences: how do we create cities in which both 8-year-olds and 80-year-olds can move about safely and enjoyably? "We have to stop building cities as if everyone is 30 years-old and athletic," he says.
A girl walks next to an elderly woman selling plants at the entrance of a pedestrian subway in Kiev, Ukraine. (REUTERS/Konstantin Chernichkin)
His 8 to 80 litmus test involves imagining a public space, but especially a busy city street or intersection, and asking whether it is suitable for young and old alike. In all too many locations – signalized crossings on wide suburban arterials, narrow bike lanes, over-taxed sidewalks, etc. – the answer will be no.
By way of solutions, Penalosa’s group has advised cities like Seville and Guadalajara on the importance of more accessible surface transit, improved cycling and pedestrian infrastructure, and more programmable park space.
But in many aging societies, where the proportion of seniors will grow as much as four-fold over the next two decades, public space improvements alone won’t make large urban areas, especially car-dependent suburbs, more suitable to the needs of older residents. Indeed, one of the most difficult questions facing urban areas is how they will go about making themselves more age-friendly.Click here for the rest of this article, including some solutions.