Melanie Davern is Associate Professor within the Health, Place and Society group in the Centre for Urban Research at RMIT and the Director of the Australian Urban Observatory.
Davern is passionate about applying policy- focused research to solve current public health and urban planning problems.
Cities should accommodate our lifespans
In Australia, most health planning for older people is deficit focused or directed to conversations about residential aged care, explains Davern.
“We need to turn this conversation around and think about how we plan and build cities to keep people healthy and active from childhood to older adulthood,” she says.
“Age-friendly cities and communities are for all people living in a community and should benefit young children, families, couples, individuals and people with disabilities.”
Assessing age-friendly neighbourhoods
RMIT recently released a quantitative framework using spatial indicators to assess the age-friendliness of local neighbourhoods.
This includes walkability, access to public open spaces, public transport, local services and amenities, housing affordability, volunteering and employment post-retirement age, and internet access.
Many of these same indicators are also available in the Australian Urban Observatory, a digital platform transforming complex data into liveability indicators across Australia’s 21 largest cities.
Radical shift in policy and respect for our elderly is needed now
Davern says the recent Royal Commission into Aged Care and COVID-related deaths in aged care has shown we are failing our older people.
“Ageing policy needs a radical shift to support age friendly housing, new technologies and research that combines both the needs and wants of older people,” she says.
“Most importantly, we need new respect for all older people, policies that prevent residential aged care being seen as a business opportunity and focus on urban design and health policies that plan for all ages and abilities.”