Ageing and Life Course

Questions and answers

What are the goals of the WHO Global Network of Age-friendly Cities and Communities (the Network)?

Main goals of the Network are to:

  • connect cities and communities that share the commitment of becoming more age-friendly;
  • facilitate the exchange of information and best practices;
  • provide technical support and training; and
  • ensure that interventions taken to improve the lives of older people are appropriate, sustainable and cost-effective.

How can you join the the Network?

To become a member of the Network a city or community must commit to undertake a process of continually assessing and improving their age-friendliness. It is essential that older residents are involved in a meaningful way throughout the process.

Membership applications are submitted with a letter from the Mayor and municipal administration indicating a commitment to undertake the WHO Global Network of Age-friendly Cities and Communities process.

What are the advantages of membership?

A city or community that becomes a member of the network is able to use the designation "Member of the WHO Global Network of Age-friendly Cities and Communities". Membership allows:

  • Connection to a global network of ageing experts, including senior officials, programme managers, researchers and older people themselves.
  • Receipt of the latest news and material on Age-friendly City and Community projects, meetings and events.
  • Guidance on approaches for developing and implementing Age-friendly City and Community approaches.
  • Participation in discussions of best practices for implementing and overcoming challenges to building an age-friendly city or community.
  • Facilitation of partnerships or collaborative activities between cities.
  • Dissemination and sharing of project results.

What is WHO's role?

WHO Headquarters, Regional and Country Offices will provide a leadership role that includes:

  • coordination of the Age-friendly Cities and Communities programme
  • identification and dissemination of good practices
  • development of implementation guidelines
  • technical support and training
  • reviewing progress and plans.

How do national programmes link to the Network?

Some WHO Member States are taking the initiative to establish their own programmes to create national or state-wide age-friendly city or community initiatives. Countries are encouraged to work with WHO to ensure that cities and communities participating in these programmes gain automatic membership to the Network.

How will WHO take into account the differences between cities and communities around the world in determining membership and reviewing action plans?

The Network process is flexible and allows for the vast differences in cities and communities across the world. Assessment of action plans and progress will take account of each city's and community's financial and social circumstances.

How long does membership in the Network last?

A city or community can remain a member of the Network for as long as they can demonstrate continual improvement against developed indicators. In other words, once a city / community demonstrates evidence of progress against its original plan of action (usually 5 years after becoming a member) it is expected that that a city / community will develop a new plan of action with a duration of up to 5 years along with associated indicators. On approval of this plan of action by WHO, membership will be maintained. Progress against this plan will be assessed at the end of this second implementation period, and cities can enter into further implementation cycles to ensure membership continuity.

If a city joins the Network, what happens to existing "age friendly-type" programmes that may have already been planned or implemented at the local or national level?

Participation in the Network does not replace either the planning or implementation of other age-friendly city initiatives. Rather, countries are encouraged to work with WHO to ensure that cities participating in these programmes gain automatic membership to the Network. Furthermore, participation in the network will provide the opportunity for municipalities to assess their current age-friendly approaches to the needs of their older residents in a systematic and holistic way that identifies and responds to remaining gaps. Inclusion of, or linkage to, other initiatives within a city's/community's action plan for improving age-friendliness is therefore encouraged.

Is membership in the Network open to anyone other than a city/community?

In some cases, WHO will negotiate affiliation of similar national level programmes with Member States? These programmes will need to be consistent, but not necessarily identical, with the process outlined below. They will be administered and supported by Member States, and cities / communities participating in these national programmes, and meeting agreed criteria may also participate as members of the Network.

Will the establishment of the Network in the development of benchmarks or standards for age-friendly cities/communities?

The Network does not yet include standards or benchmarking between cities. However, these measures are planned for the future and cities will be encouraged to identify indicators that are routinely collected, measurable and comparable.

What are the future plans for the Network of Age-friendly Cities and Communities?

A further and later step may be to identify Age-friendly city / community standards that would allow cities that reach a particular level to receive a relevant award. For example, cities/communities where all public transport is accessible, has reduced fares for older people, has priority seating and where drivers are trained in assisting older people may be eligible for a transport award. It may also be possible to identify cities/communities that are exceptional in their progress towards age-friendliness for an overall award. But these standards will only be identifiable when more information from cities/communities that have been involved in the programme becomes available. WHO is also interested in exploring similar approaches in different settings, for example hospitals and workplaces.