The goal of smart cities, however, shouldn’t just be to digitalize public services and infrastructure to improve mobility and save on public spending. The challenges we face demand a more ambitious target – smart cities should aim to improve the quality of life of all urban citizens through developing smarter, better and faster services that respond to today’s demands. Co-creating smart age-friendly solutions is imperative given Europe’s demographic trends. This means listening to the citizens first, and then planning, implementing and evaluating the solutions alongside them.
Co-creation helps smart cities understand the diversity of needs of their older residents. However, since digital literacy is lower in this group, city planners must look for alternative ways to consult and involve older people in the co-creation of public policies. The goal needs to be to help older citizens overcome the fear, lack of trust, anxiety and frustration that have all been identified as barriers to social inclusion in studies focused on this demographic and digital technologies. Concerns about data protection are also high among this age group and must be tackled.
Before introducing disruptive digital public services, smart cities must make efforts to help older citizens understand why and how they can benefit from using these new initiatives. Seniors organizations have to be involved in the process to reach out to wider groups of older people and increase acceptance. This demographic will only use smart services if these are age-friendly by design and have been developed in an inclusive way with seniors’ diverse needs and desires in mind.
Building smart cities for everyone is a continuous journey. Through a co-creation approach, cities can become smarter as well as help everyone grow and age in better health and actively contribute to their community.
This article is co-written by Anne-Sophie Parent