Carlo Fabian is a Professor, Senior Researcher and Project Leader at the University of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern Switzerland (FHNW), Institute for Social Planning, Organisational Change and Urban Development. He has a degree in Health and Social Psychology, is a Specialist Psychologist in Health Psychology (FSP) and has a Master of Advanced studies (MAS) in Coaching Studies. After several years as researcher and lecturer at the University of Zurich (1997-2001), the Swiss Institute for Health and Addiction Research (1999-2000) and the FHNW (2001-2008), he worked at RADIX (2008-2012), a Swiss not-for-profit organisation, where he developed and implemented many projects in municipalities with a focus on participation. Since 2011 he has led projects at the FHNW addressing the subject of urban development, participatory planning and well-being or health. Carlo Fabian is currently the head of the project “Connecting elderly people to urban life: Towards a better understanding of ageing in place by rethinking stereotypes ” founded by the Swiss National Science Foundation.
Ageism and Neighbourhood – More age-appropriate and less ageist development of the living environment of older people
Our societies are getting older and older, and at the same time, there are great processes of differentiation taking place in old age: Different economic possibilities, health conditions and resources, interests and lifestyles characterize old age. This results in a variety of needs and opportunities. Age is multifaceted and there is no one right environment, form of living or life plan that is appropriate for all old people. For this reason, cities are required to develop concepts of ageing in place. Inasmuch a place is not simply accommodation, the relevance of community-sensitive neighbourhoods will evidently become more important for a self-determined and pluralised ageing.
Up to now, hardly any scientific research has been carried out to determine how the planning of the lifeworlds of older people is carried out. In particular, there is scarcely research on the role of internalised age-related stereotypes. The fact is that experts involved in planning, architecture, administration and politics are usually under 65 years of age – but they plan and design for the over 65s.
Our research project (2016-2018) aims to analyse stereotypes (and ageism) inherent in current concepts of ageing in place. Based on a theoretically derived understanding of Henri Lefebvre, two case studies are conducted in two neighbourhoods in Basel (Switzerland). We are using a wide range of qualitative methods. We include “experts” (planning professions), «today’s older people» (70 to 80 years old) and «tomorrow’s older people» (50 to 60 years old) in our research.
The final report will be published by the end of 2018. First results show that the needs and concerns of older people are hardly ever taken into account. The reasons are stereotypes like «Old people don’t want to be involved in planning processes». Planning professionals think they know the needs of older people and generalise their own experiences. The age stereotype of «old equals fragile» is common. Consequently people think, «age-appropriate» means «barrier-free».
First conclusions are that the planning and realisation of neighbourhoods are sometimes ageist. This is due to a lack of in-depth knowledge on the subject of age and given age-related stereotypes.
The findings of the research project are intended to improve the knowledge about hidden place-bound ageism’s, as well as providing recommendations for age-sensitive neighbourhood policies in order to actively reduce ageism.
At the conference, we will present and discuss our preliminary findings, the relevance for the planning practice and some policy implications.