Above: Doctor Alexandre Kalache.
By Stephen Easton
South Australians have played host to the world-renowned pioneer of the concepts ‘active ageing’ and ‘age-friendly cities’ over the past month through the state government’s Thinkers-In-Residence program, which brings international experts from various disciplines to Adelaide.
The former head of ageing initiatives at the World Health Organisation, Dr Alexandre Kalache, has almost completed his first four-week visit to the SA capital, and will return on two more occasions between now and next April, bringing ideas on how to create an age-friendly city.
This involves challenging negative perceptions about the consequences of an ageing population, raising awareness of positive contributions made by older people and developing opportunities for them to live richer, fuller lives, according to SA Premier, Mike Rann.
“In paid or volunteering work, helping their families with caring responsibilities, and sharing knowledge and experience, older people play a crucial role in our community,” Mr Rann said.
“Many of the changes that are good for older adults — like accessible public transport or safer pedestrian crossings — benefit people of all ages.”
One highlight of Dr Kalache’s first visit was an informal free lecture he gave to an audience of around 400 in Adelaide last Wednesday, where he elaborated further on what an age-friendly city is, and what it takes to create one.
“An age-friendly city is an environment where all the basic assets for you to have quality of life in an urban environment are present,” Dr Kalache said in a video published by the Thinker-In-Residence program, in which he discussed the same ideas.
“We’re not only talking about accessibility,” he said. “That is important; if you replace stairs by ramps, if you put in hand rails, if you have lifts – all this is going to make a city more friendly to people that have less functional capacity.
“[…] But it goes beyond that; we’re talking about good policies on transportation – the fact that you can go from A to B, from B to C, so that you can socialise, you can go to services, you can visit your doctor, but also you can go to the theatre, you can visit your friends, your relatives.
“So, a good policy on ageing is a good policy on public transportation [and] it’s a good policy on housing, because that is where we spend most of our lives, especially as we grow older.”
In the video, Dr Kalache explains further that an age-friendly city must be welcoming and friendly, and include more opportunities for people to learn over all stages of their lives, with different ways of accessing information suited to different individuals.
“[An age-friendly city] is a place where access to information will be tailored to your needs, not only for the young,” he said. “There may be many services that older people [currently] ignore because the information is not made accessible to them.
“But above all, we are talking about an environment where the attitude is right, from the policy makers to the service providers to the population as a whole, where you feel that you are not being discriminated [against].”
Helping Hand’s director of research and development, Megan Corlis, has been appointed to the role of ‘catalyst’ by the SA Premier’s Department, with the stated purpose “to provide assistance, advice and support to Dr Kalache from a non-government perspective”.
Dr Kalache leads the International Centre for Policies on Ageing in Brazil and is a special adviser for global ageing to the New York Academy of Medicine as well as sitting on the advisory board of the World Demographic and Ageing Forum.
Watch Dr Kalache explain the age-friendly city in the video below, thanks to the Thinkers-In-Residence program.