Invisible in the smart city: Using participatory design methods for age-friendly solutions

Cora van Leeuwen, Juanita Devis Clavijo, An Jacobs, Ilse Marien

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Older adults face unique challenges and have differing needs when navigating the urban environment. Civil servants and policy makers in cities, at the same time, are facing difficulties in promoting age-friendly initiatives due to the lack of knowledge, data and tools about older adults. In this context, smart cities have a key role in increasing the participation of older adults (i.e. 65 years and older) and informing policy makers and civil servants about the needs and actions that need to be taken. Policymakers and civil servants in smart cities are tasked to uncover the needs and to provide informed policy making geared towards addressing the needs of this population. This task is made more difficult by several existing issues such as aggregated non age specific big data, lack of data all together and a disparity in access and use of digital technology. This paper endeavors to provide a methodology to ensure that the older adults are represented in the collected data and the translation of this data into automatic policy making decisions.
The Participation for Policy for Older Adults (PAR4POA) method introduces older adults’ perspectives from the start of the project and its iterative approach means that older adults will share their needs and values with policy makers at different stages of a project. We will provide examples of how this method was used within a H2020 URBANAGE project . The use of this method enabled the co-creation of smart city solutions targeted to address the needs of older citizens in the context of 3 European european regions. The proposed method was adjusted from the original PAR4P method by adding additional consultations with older adults to understand their lifeworld and the manner in which data collection via digital technology could be introduced to be accepted by older adult users. Furthermore, the adjustment ensures that the results could lead to automatic policy making decisions. The PAR4POA method is specifically altered for the situation of older adults, but could easily be used to include other marginalized populations. Ensuring participation in the automatic policy making arena will empower marginalized populations and provide representation in data previously not provided.
Original languageEnglish
Article number956787
JournalFrontiers in Sustainable Cities
Publication statusPublished - 4 Aug 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The research leading to these results has received funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Program Under Grant Agreement No. 101004590 and by SBO-Grant S005221N, funded by The Research Foundation—Flanders FWO.

Funding Information:
The Digital Ageing Consortium is composed of researchers from Vrije Universiteit Brussel and University of Antwerp: Ignace Glorieux, Dimitri Mortelmans, AJ, Anina Vercruyssen, Nico De Witte, IM, Werner Schirmer, Bram Spruyt, CL, Jorrit Campens, and Nelly Geerts. The authors would like to thank the other members of the Digital Ageing Consortium. Furthermore, we would like to thank Silvia Urra from TECNALIA and Basque Research and Technology Alliance (BRTA) in Derio, Spain for her assistance and organization.

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2022 van Leeuwen, Devis Clavijo, Mariën and Jacobs.

Copyright 2022 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Digital inclusion
  • Participatory Design
  • smart cities
  • age-friendly cities
  • ageism


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