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Aging

Building bridges: cities helping cities achieve more – a Romanian-Japanese partnership

Marcel Ionescu-Heroiu's picture
The central square of the old town. Brasov
Photo: The central square of the old town. Brasov. Transylvania. By Ann Stryzhekin/ Shutterstock
When U.S. Commodore Matthew Perry arrived in Yokohama in 1854, it was a backwater village in Japan with a largely rural, relatively undeveloped economy. But it soon grew to an urban agglomeration with around 3.7 million people. Since then, Yokohama has managed to continuously reinvent itself – from a port city, to a large industrial area, and now to a modern, global service and lifestyle hub.
 
Within a century, Japan would become the world’s second largest economy. Its growth has been fueled by cities such as Tokyo, Yokohama, Osaka, and Kobe. Japanese cities can offer a myriad of lessons to their counterparts in developing countries.
 
Japanese cities are also at the forefront of dealing with some of the world’s most pressing challenges. For example, cities like Osaka and Toyama have developed a number of tools to address the social issues caused by rapid aging. Most developed and developing cities in the world will face similar challenges in the years to come. Providing a platform where these cities can learn from the experience of Japanese cities may lead to significant development impact.
 
Supported by a partnership between the World Bank and Japan, the Tokyo Development Learning Center (TDLC) does just that.

Disability inclusion? Or disability as a market in aging cities?

Maitreyi Bordia Das's picture
 

This last May in Tokyo, we talked about demographic transitions and aging cities, in a week-long discussion with city leaders from around the world.  Although we saw the opportunities that arise from having large numbers of elderly persons in cities, we also focused on the numerous challenges, many of which are grounded in age-related disability – both physical and cognitive.  We had expected that the conversation would be as our flagship report on social inclusion, Inclusion Matters: The Foundation for Shared Prosperity, puts it – about “including” the elderly into markets, services, and spaces following our framework.

Enter Rich Donovan, with a riveting talk that stood our assumptions on their heads.  Rich argued that persons with disability are a market.  They are an opportunity. And that there is an economic “return on disability.”  If we build and design having persons with disabilities in mind, we are in fact creating public goods.  In short, and as Rich has said elsewhere - this new vision of disability “transforms efforts of charity into the world’s largest emerging market”.

I got a chance to talk to Rich in Tokyo. Among other things, I asked him whether “social inclusion” is too arcane, or even too limiting an idea for the revolutionary take that he has on disability.

Rich’s book “Unleash Different” will be out in September 2018. We look forward to continuing the conversation with Rich about the return on disability. Meanwhile, watch this video in full, and leave a comment to share your thoughts, as world leaders gather in London for the Global Disability Summit.

Are cities ready for their increasingly aging populations?

Ashna Mathema's picture

Virtually everywhere, the share of “older persons,” aged 60 years or over, is increasing. The number of older people globally is projected to grow from 901 million in 2015 to 1.4 billion in 2030 to 2.1 billion in 2050. In 2015, one in eight people worldwide was 60 or older; in 2030, this number will be one in six people, and by 2050, one in five people.

Aging – and by the same token, aging in cities – is an outcome of increasing longevity and declining birthrates, and is currently more prevalent in wealthier economies. However, between 2015 and 2030, the rate of growth of elderly populations is expected to be highest in Latin America and the Caribbean, followed by Asia and Africa. Not only is this rate likely to exceed that of the developed countries in the past, but it is also likely to occur at much lower levels of national income, and weaker systems of social protection (pensions, social security, etc.)


This demographic shift will have far-reaching social and economic consequences. Societies will not just be older, they will be more active for longer periods of their lives compared to previous generations, and they will function – and need to be understood – differently. Accordingly, it is important to recognize that aging is not a “problem” per se, but that it can become a challenge if the social, physical, economic, and policy environment is not adapted to demographic change. Aging is also changing the way money is spent and, as such, presents a massive opportunity for companies to tap into the “longevity economy” and to harness new innovations and disruptive technologies to increase the autonomy of older people.

From May 21-25, 2018, representatives from 15 cities in 12 countries visited Japan for a Technical Deep Dive on Aging Cities to learn about the fundamental paradigm shifts necessary to ensure that their cities offer a vibrant, productive, and livable environment for all residents, including the elderly.  In this video, Anna Wellenstein (Director, Strategy and Operations), Maitreyi Das (Practice Manager / Global Lead, Social Inclusion) and Phil Karp (Lead Knowledge Management Specialist) discuss the growing importance for cities and countries to understand, plan for, and adapt to the dramatic – but predictable – demographic shift that is occurring globally.