Central and Local Governments Cooperate to Build Age-friendly Cities
A Chinese saying goes: “elders are a treasure”. Taiwan will have evolved into an aging society by 2018. How to build an age-friendly environment to help the elderly enjoy their life, age actively, and live healthily and happily has become the government’s priority.
In response to the concept of “active aging” and “age-friendly cities” upheld by WHO in 2010, the Health Promotion Administration has actively shaped Taiwan as an age-friendly society from eight aspects: respect and social inclusion; social participation; outdoor spaces and buildings; transportation; housing; communication and information; community support and health services; and civic participation and employment,. The Administration has helped every city and county government review the current living environment for the elderly, and proposed improvement plans and recommendations regarding insufficient infrastructure and insight cities, in the hope that all cities and counties may create an age-friendly environment.
In 2010, Chiayi City became the first pilot city in Taiwan and has achieved significant success. President Ma even visited Chiayi City in March 2011 to declare with Wen-Ta Chiu, Minister of Ministry of Health and Welfare, Shu-Ti Chiou, Director General of Health Promotion Administration, and Min-Hui Huang, Mayor of Chiayi City that age-friendly societies will be shaped across Taiwan.
Based on “Advocate, Enable, and Mediate”, Health Promotion Administration Launched the Program
The Health Promotion Administration played a key role in bringing about age-friendly cities across Taiwan by leading each city and county to promote the “age-friendly city” program based on three functions: “advocate”, “enable”, and “mediate”.
In terms of “advocate”, the “age-friendly city” policy was led by the central government and fulfilled by local governments. The governmental departments led public and private agencies, institutions, or groups to actively develop age-friendly environments and services.
In terms of “enable”, in addition to advocating ideas, the Health Promotion Administration also provided promotional models and tools, a set of effective kits, as the implementation plan for cities and counties to follow and promote age-friendly cities step by step.
In terms of “mediate”, the Health Promotion Administration provided city and county governments with a central population policy white paper and other ongoing policies related to respect and social inclusion and social participation implemented by relevant departments. It also distributed a small budget to assist cities and counties in integrating resources among bureaus and cross-departments, which brought about the central government’s policies in local cities and counties. Moreover, the Health Promotion Administration also provided expert consultation to help cities and counties solve problems in the process of implementation.
Taiwan’s Active Responses to the Aging Society
With the efforts of the Health Promotion Administration and each city and county, 22 cities and counties across Taiwan have joined in the promotion of age-friendly cities in 2013. Within 3 years, Taiwan has become the country promoting the most age-friendly cities around the world and allowing over 2,740,000 elders to enjoy policies related to respect and social inclusion and social participation as well as a high-quality golden age.
In 2011, WHO held the “1st International Conference on Age-Friendly Cities” in Dublin, Ireland, and 40 mayors from around the world participated in the conference. Dr. Shu-Ti Chiou, Director General of Health Promotion Administration, and Min-Hui Huang, Mayor of Chiayi City were invited to participate in the conference and express the resolution to promote age-friendly cities across Taiwan. At the conference, Taiwan shared with other countries its performances in promoting age-friendly cities, which resulted in the participation of American, British, Japanese, Irish experts as well as the chairman of AGE Platform Europe in the “2012 APEC Asia-Pacific Conference on age-friendly cities and age-friendly economy” in Taiwan.
Moreover, the Health Promotion Administration also encouraged each city and county to actively participate in international organizations, publish promotions results, or conduct bilateral exchange between cities so as to gain experience from cities around the world and increase the international visibility of each city and county as well as of Taiwan. Currently, Taoyuan County and New Taipei City have become the international member of the International Federation on Ageing (IFA); besides, Taipei City, Taoyuan County, Hsinchu City, Taichung City and Chiayi City have continued to conduct bilateral age-friendly exchanges with other cities abroad.
Assemble Effort to Evolve into an Age-friendly Taiwan
To promote age-friendly cities more effectively, each government entity should actively face and overcome difficulties. In April 2014, the Health Promotion Administration formed a central cross-department promotion committee and invited experts of all fields and representatives of cities and counties to participate in the committee. The promotion committee acted as a platform for reviewing and advising the domestic age-friendly city program.
Taiwan has become a global leader among countries building age-friendly cities. It was the first country to promote age-friendly cities in all cities and counties and developed a government-based certification of age-friendly health care institutions, and published academic papers to share promotional experiences with other countries.
Through these policies and cross-generation integration, the Health Promotion Administration hopes to allow the elderly to live healthily and age actively in a barrier-free environment!