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Designing urban areas that provide equitable access to healthy opportunities could add decades to life expectancy. Well over a decade ago, the World Health Organization outlined the concept of ageing-ready cities. Truly longevity-ready cities augment this approach by not only including accommodation for the unique needs of older people, but also by proactively addressing elements of the urban environment that affect everyone’s life trajectory. Life expectancy can vary widely according to geographical region, neighbourhood, and even city block. In the US, for example, two children born in two different regions may have respective life expectancies that differ by up to 20 years, and within New York City children who live just 10 miles from one another can anticipate differences of five years. These disparities across even relatively small geographical areas underscore the importance of the environment on mental and physical health; household, neighbourhood, and community characteristics are associated with risks related to cardiovascular and respiratory diseases and emotional well-being, in addition to overall life expectancy. Food deserts - where ready access to healthy food is limited due to a lack of retail options and general economic distress - make it nearly impossible for many people to improve their diets. Access to green spaces and living in areas with less air pollution have been consistently associated with good physical and mental health for both children and older adults. Areas with high crime rates, on the other hand, limit access to outdoor spaces due to safety concerns. Designing longevity-ready living environments is crucial; neighbourhoods that enable us to feel supported in our community influence our success as we grow up and grow older. Unfortunately, neighborhoods are growing less connected over time - and the average household size in developed countries has fallen by half over the last century (as people feel lonelier, they are more susceptible to inflammation-related disease). The addition of neighbourhood features that support community cohesion and bolster health is particularly important for people living in poverty, who can be at risk of low life expectancy based on where they live. One example that underscores the importance of addressing such disparities: while eliminating cardiovascular disease (the leading cause of death in the US), would increase overall US life expectancy by seven years, designing cities that provide equitable opportunities for everyone could add decades to some people’s longevity.

Longevity-Ready Cities

KEY TRENDS

Increasing Impact of Ageing