miércoles, 13 de junio de 2012

2012 the European Year for Active Ageing. The Safe Mobility an Intergenerational Challenge (english version)

European Year for Active Ageing and Solidarity bettewen Generations 2012
This year 2012 has been declared by the EU the European Year of Active Ageing and Intergenerational Solidarity, for this reason I want to review the interesting technical dossier about road safety, published in 2006 by the Catalan Traffic Service, dedicated to the elderly. In these documents I‘ve found answers for the questions that many people might be interested in:

What means ageing and what effects does it have on the mobility of human beings?
Ageing is a change process in life that gradually reduces the reserve mechanism in the organs of the body, increasing its vulnerability to external or internal aggressions. Ageing also means the loss of ability for adaptation to the changes that are producing themselves constantly throughout our life and it generates certain morphological changes in our body.

The following table classifies principal ageing transformations that can affect mobility.

Physical Transformations

Decrease in auditive and visual capacity
Increased sensorial confusion
Low reaction capacity
Joint stiffness and degeneration of bone structures
Increased vulnerability to illness by weakening of the immune system

Mental Transformations

Low capacity of attention
Low capacity of selection and differentiation of stimulus
Greater possibility of confusion and disorientation
Decreased short-term memory and appearance of senile dementia

Social Transformations

Limitation of certain social contacts, for example professional links
Low purchasing power
 Table prepared from data provided by:
 Dossier tècnic de seguretat viària. La gent gran: vianants i mobilitat urbana segura. (2006) SCT

These features (described above) have important implications for the mobility of elder people. Good mobility for these persons means an active social life that allows them to maintain contact with their families and friends, go alone to the nursing home or maintain relationships with other people moving through public spaces. Good mobility for older people is fundamental to enjoy a quality ageing. Safe mobility is an intergenerational challenge.

Elderly people mainly are travelling either walking or by public transport, so streets are key areas for them: a place to meet, a place to communicate or to distract themselves. Older people prefer short trips (for example no more than half an hour), without big slopes or steps, they like banks to rest, in short: sites they can feel safe.

In 1999 the World Health Organization defined active ageing as the participation of older adults, individually and collectively, in any public or private social area, and there is not active ageing without mobility. In Spain these ideas have been officially accepted by all governments.

Accessibility symbol
What needs for accessibility do the elderly have?
Accessibility is the ability for everyone to make use of a space on the principle of equality. In the Spanish national law 3/1998 of 24 of June the requirements for accessibility are established and the conditions for the removal of barriers for citizens. From 2004 to 2012 the IMSERSO (ageing administration) has been developing the First National Accessibility Plan as an essential criterion in public administration as well as a means to extend the “design for everybody” not only in products but also in infrastructures and services. Architectural barriers in buildings and streets, the intense and aggressive motorized traffic and citizen insecurity create an inaccessible environment for elders, causing greater insecurity and isolation to them. If this is not remedied, old people fall into a dependency and low self-esteem, which might result in the creation of their own alienation to everything that happens outside their homes. Finally without mobility elderly people only know what happens outside by radio, TV, internet or whatever visitors will tell them. Accessibility and safe mobility are two key objectives for the development of an active and healthy ageing.

What's safe mobility?
Safe mobility is considered the right to move by foot or by any vehicle without risk and with guarantees for physical integrity of persons and goods. Therefore, safe mobility should be preventive, respectful with the standards, adapted to the circumstances and based on values such as prudence, respect and responsibility. This type of mobility can become a comprehensive strategy for a transversal intergenerational social action, applicable to different environments: family, school, neighbourhoods, municipality... Safe mobility is a topic of dialogue between citizens allowing them an intergenerational communication (grandparents with grandchildren, parents with children, teachers with students, associations with citizens ...) and in this way to give a solution to this social need: the intergenerational contact, where the city becomes the reference space for this education and relationships. Save school roads, for example, are a clear tool in this strategy of collaboration for safe intergenerational mobility, however, these activities are not only designed for children, but for all citizens especially old people.

Have we thought how many times in our life we need to make use of the accessibility right? At the beginning of childhood we are without autonomous mobility and we need to learn it. When we reach old age, gradually, we have less mobility, and it’s also very likely that we lose autonomy temporarily or permanently as a result of an accident or illness. Are we conscious about how long throughout our lives we will need an assisted mobility, which has nothing to do with the car? Can you think, just a minute, about safe mobility and accessibility you need now and you will need in the future?

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