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What is Age Friendly?

Derry City and Strabane District Council became members of the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Network of Age Friendly Cities & Communities in January 2017, reaffirming its commitment to make Derry City and Strabane a great place to grow old in, enabling the inclusion of older persons to help make our region a more age-friendly place.

Derry City and Strabane District Council and its partners are committed to the Age Friendly agenda through its community planning processes, the Inclusive Strategic Growth Plan: Our Community Plan (2017-2032) and the eight Local Growth Plans.

The Community Plan was revised in 2022 and now includes a specific older people outcome, “We have a caring society that supports people throughout their lives”.  A priority action within this outcome is to “Be an age friendly City and Region through an integrated programme of action, based on a rights-based approach, the eight World Health Organisation’s key themes and implementation of the City and District’s Age Friendly Strategy and Action Plan

The specific outcome within our Community Plan is ‘We Live Long, Healthy and fulfilling lives’.  The key action within this outcome is to ‘Develop an Age Friendly City and Region through an integrated programme of action, based on a rights-based approach, and on the eight World Health Organisation’s key themes’.

An Age Friendly Community is one were older people are supported to age safely, enjoy good health and participate fully in their community.  The Age Friendly process is designed to ensure the region is informed and ready to meet changing needs, interest and aspirations of its’ citizens.  An age-friendly approach facilitates co-design, the inclusion of older persons and enables people of all ages to actively participate in community activities and treats everyone with respect, regardless of their age.

An age friendly place makes it easy for older people to stay connected to people that are important to them.  It helps people stay healthy and active even at the oldest ages and provides appropriate support to those who can no longer look after themselves.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has been carrying out important work in this area through its ‘Age Friendly Cities Programme’.  The programme is part of an international effort to address environmental and social factors to contribute to active and healthy ageing.  The programme helps cities and communities to become more supportive of older persons by addressing their needs across eight themes.

Source - World Health Organisation.

Through the Age Friendly process council aim to work with our partners to address the eight key Age Friendly Themes that are vital to establishing an Age Friendly City and Community.

The WHO Eight Age Friendly Themes

Eight Age Friendly Theme

Brief Description

Why is this important?

Outdoor Spaces and buildings

The outside environment and public buildings have a major impact on independence and happiness in later life.

The outside environment and public buildings have a major impact on the mobility, independence and quality of life of older people.

Accessible public buildings, walkable spaces including parks, seating and public toilets all contribute to being age-friendly and can make all the difference to people of all ages and abilities.


Whether using public services or alternative options, transportation is a key issue for people in later life.

The most frequent reasons for not using public transport among those 65 and over are that it’s not convenient and doesn’t go where they want. Add on to that the fact that driving rates decrease with older age, and the need for better transport in age-friendly communities starts to become clear.


Housing and support allows people in later life to age comfortably and safely within their home and community.

Most people want to stay living where they reside. While wanting to make the choice about where you live doesn’t change in later life, the practicalities around it can.

Social Participation

Social participation is strongly connected to good health and wellbeing throughout life.

Interacting with people around us is essential in helping prevent loneliness. Research indicates that people who volunteer or otherwise actively participate in their community tend to be happier as a result and tend to report both more and deeper relationships with others.

Respect and Inclusion

Feeling valued and respected is important for everyone, especially older people from all backgrounds.

Older people report experiencing conflicting types of behaviour towards them. Many feel they’re respected while others experience lack of consideration.

Civic Participation and employment

An age-friendly community provides options for people in later life to contribute back to it.

Opportunities in employment and volunteering can have a measurable positive impact on a people’s health and wellbeing, as well as finances. These opportunities often diminish with age.

Communication and information

Staying connected with people and events and people as well as receiving timely, practical information to manage life and meet personal needs is vital for active ageing.

Information on events and activities may be out there, but it isn’t always accessible for older people, especially as so much is now shared online and many older people are not digitally connected.

Community support and health services

Accessible and affordable health care services, coupled with community support is strongly connected to good health and wellbeing throughout life.

As the older population grows in size, the need for health services and support in the community grows too.

As one ages, they may need support with one or more daily activities like bathing, cooking or using the toilet unaided. Greater resources within healthcare and social care spending are needed to meet future demands of an ageing population.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) Definition of Age Friendly

Age Friendly is a WHO initiative to promote measures to make life better for us all as we age.  Age Friendly is:

“A key strategy to facilitate the inclusion of older persons is to make our world more age-friendly. An age-friendly world enables people of all ages to actively participate in community activities and treats everyone with respect, regardless of their age. It is a place that makes it easy for older people to stay connected to people that are important to them. And it helps people stay to those who can no longer look after themselves”

The importance of active ageing

People are living longer, and health outcomes have improved greatly over the last century.  Good health enables us to get the most out of our lives. WHO has defined health as ‘a complete state of physical, mental and social wellbeing and not simply the absence of disease or infirmity’. This supports the view that health is largely determined by our social, economic, physical and cultural environment, employment status, educational attainment, appropriate housing, etc.

Who are older people?

For the purposes of developing Age Friendly across the area we define older people on the basis set out in the legislation created by the NI Commissioner for Older People. That law defines an older person to mean a person aged 60 or over; however, in particular circumstances, people aged 50 or over can also be categorised as an older person.

Ageing is Changing                  

Population ageing has been described as the greatest challenge facing the developed world.  Virtually every country in the world is experiencing growth in the number and proportion of older persons in their population.  Globally we are experiencing a shift in the distribution of population towards older ages and this has considerable implications for nearly all sectors of society, demand for goods and services such as housing, transport and social protection, employment, financial markets, engagement and connections, as well as family structures and intergenerational ties to meet the needs of our ageing population. 

According to Northern Ireland Neighbourhood Information Service (NINIS) in the 25 years from 2014-2039,

• 65+ years will increase by 74.4% (498,500 people)

• 85+ years will increase by 157.3% (52,200 people)

• It is projected by 2039 24.7% of the population will be over 65 years.

Local Age Friendly Profile for Derry City and Strabane District Council Area


United Nations Principles for Older Persons

The United Nations Principles for Older Persons were adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations in 1991 to help decide what needs to be achieved to ensure the continued and enhanced inclusion of older people in society.  There are 18 principles which are grouped under five key themes:

  • Independence
  • Participation
  • Care
  • Self-fulfilment
  • Dignity

These key themes are vitally important for the inclusion and participation of older persons within the continuous journey of Age Friendly within and beyond Derry City and Strabane District Council area.

Regional Active Ageing Strategy

In 2016, the Northern Ireland Executive (NIE) published its Active Ageing Strategy (2016-2021).  The  vision of the Strategy is one of Northern Ireland being an age friendly region in which people, as they get older, are valued and supported to live actively to their fullest potential; with their rights respected and their dignity protected. The purpose of the Strategy is to transform attitudes to, and services for older people and lead to the improvement of services for older people. It will increase the understanding of the issues affecting older people and promote an emphasis on rights, values and contribution as opposed to needs, costs and burden.

The Strategy identifies six key outcomes as follows:

Older people live independently for as long as they can

Older people are involved in their family and community

Older people are healthier for longer

Older workers are supported to remain in employment for as long as they wish

Older people participate in cultural, educational and physical activity

Older people’s dignity and human rights are exclusively safeguarded

Building an Age Friendly Community Locally

To ensure the region prepares and progresses Age Friendly within our area, a series of actions including the following will be progressed by Derry City & Strabane District Council with its partners and stakeholders through support received from the Public Health Agency;

  • Build on existing partnerships and involvement with age friendly initiatives to date
  • Raise awareness and profile of age friendly
  • establish an Age Friendly structure with partners and stakeholders to co-design a 3 year Age Friendly Strategy and action plan for Derry City and Strabane.
  • complete a baseline assessment of age friendly across the 8 domains of WHO
  • continuous engagement and consultation with older people to identify their needs
  • progress a community development approach to engage local people, raising awareness of and interest in participation in Age Friendly activities and service design
  • develop a 3-year strategy and action plan for age friendly across Derry City and Strabane District Council area

Age Friendly Network NI

Age NI, the Public Health Agency (PHA) and the Department for Communities (DfC) have recently created a regional Age Friendly Network to support the development of Age Friendly environments. 

The regional network will assist in the implementation of the Active Ageing Strategy 2016-21, provision of a consistent approach, ensure all Councils and other provider’s services are cognisant of the needs of older people and aim to improve provision going forward.

Age Sector Network

Age NI has helped build an infrastructure of independent age sector networks regionally.  The networks bring together local age sector groups to strengthen the voice of older people and support them to influence decisions on local policy and services. Age NI supports networks to share information, learning and progress on key issues to bring about positive change to services, policy and practice.

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