The Active Third Age and the City

A growing population, including those aged over 60, means cities need to adapt




Cities have many advantages for older people - ease of access to services, provision of cultural and leisure facilities, shopping and general necessities for living their daily lives - but they can also be threatening environments, producing insecurity, feelings of exclusion, and vulnerability.

But as we live longer and the older generations become a more prominent demographic, questions are starting to be asked as to how we can make our cities more age-friendly. Over the next 20 years the number of people aged over 60 in the UK is expected to increase by 40%. 

Our post-retirement years will be longer and healthier and by 2040 the over 60  active Third Age could have substantially greater economic, social and political power.   

This growing population signals profound social and economic changes that can present us with significant opportunities to rethink how this group, the active Third Age , might have a positive influence on the way we all live, work and play in urban environments.

We know that ageing in cities, and specifically in disadvantaged urban areas, involves risks that can lead to ill health and poor quality of life. But this doesn’t have to be so. For our cities to accommodate growth in this demographic and realise the active Third Age ’s potential, we need to adapt to house this significant proportion of the population, rethink how older and younger age groups can work together to identify common needs, and tap into this source of considerable economic and political clout.

If we can harness the vast potential embedded within the active Third Age  we could deliver a more sustainable, resilient and engaging urban experience that could revolutionise the shape and future of our towns and cities, and possibly change the way we interact with different generations.

As the baby boomers move towards old age, generational competition and depleted resources will continue to dominate the political and social debate about our ageing population, but we believe that there is a silver lining to this tale that all can benefit from.

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The RIBA Building Futures report  Silver linings: The Active Third Age and the City  illustrates six future scenarios in which the active Third Age has made a huge impact on our towns and cities: each possibility has been explored to inspire ideas and provoke debate.