The administration of cities is growing significantly following the idea of smart cities. However, any resulting evolution involves defining a roadmap and achieving specific goals. The strategy must include not only investing massively in technology, but also working hard on adopting a community service orientation.
Said community service will use technology as a means for dynamization and interaction, creating a collaborative environment for administrators and citizens. This gives rise to unbalanced situations in many cases, as some cities have less resources and some governments invest less money in this approach. Terms like 3.0, 5G or Big Data are included in many electoral platforms in cities that will eventually be, to a greater or lesser extent, Little Smart. Thus, I hereby advocate Smart Living 0.0, visualizing a non-augmented reality, and when socially fair, creating a habitat that is as inclusive as possible, directing technology growth towards helping citizens to build a different sociocultural model.
Smart cities should be environments that adjust to every citizens’ capacity and need, and they should undoubtedly have older people in mind.
Regarding aging, one of the challenges that smart city designers face is minimizing the unwanted effects of loneliness in older people.
A recent report by the World Health Organization estimates that the number of people over 60 years old will double by 2050. Thus, the WHO states that solutions must urgently be found and changes in social policies must be triggered to enable our aging society to reinvent themselves, adopting new ways of living.
Some countries have developed new formulas to combat the increasing loneliness and isolation of their older people (e.g. the Men’s Sheds in Australia or Ireland). However, I would like to underline the initiative of the Dutch Ministry of Public Health for their successful implementation. In the coming years the Dutch Ministry will develop a project aimed at detecting and fighting loneliness. This project, called “One against loneliness”, implies different action items and ideas that contribute to redesigning the urban space (stores, parks, leisure centers…), consequently favoring interactions among neighbors of every age and providing a more social, complete and fair life.
This ambitious plan relies on new technologies and suggests approaches such as teaching how to use a video call system to request help when needed, or providing virtual reality glasses, since according to some studies, they can stimulate older people, improving awareness and self-esteem.
There are some initiatives like wi-fi on the go, which tries to promote intergenerational relationships with innovative walkers that incorporate free wi-fi, or tablet and smart-phone lessons for the older people taught by volunteer students.
Successfully engaging older people in a more motivating life will be determinant to know if this aging society can reinvent itself, ensuring its older people a better quality of life.
I firmly believe that synergies are crucial to create collaborative networks. And these networks must be aimed at one single objective: creating more habitable and inclusive cities in a rational and sustainable way.
These collaborative networks must behave as a whole, providing solutions for all of its inhabitant’s needs and problems, comprising both large and small towns, with different technology standards but with the same need to improve the quality of their services.
We must give the resulting actions the importance that community participation deserves in every process that is targeted at designing future, habitable, participative environments.
Most experts in urban transformation agree that, even if technology is an important factor of change that can be applied to smart cities, we cannot ignore a much more basic issue like architectural barriers. Successful reconsideration of urban planning will result in a friendlier environment not only for persons with reduced-mobility or older people, but for society as a whole.
In short, we are facing a scenario full of big challenges and much work to be done, but also full of hope that together we will move forward to a more sustainable and inclusive habitat.