May 26, 2024

I am now presently residing in Barcelona (thanks to my retirement benefits that sustain my wife and I in this cosmopolitan city) which is considered by the World Health Organization as one of the age-friendly cities in the world. Lucky for us to be here savoring life in our golden years.
Our world is ageing at the same time beco-ming more urbanized. Studies show that, “more than half of the world population now lives in a city and by 2030, one in every three people will be a city dweller.”As the cities grow, the proportion of old people inhabiting them increases and this demographic change was the subject of studies by the WHO several years ago or at the turn of the century and created the Global Network of Age-Friendly Cities and Communities (GNAFCC).
An age-friendly city is one where the “specific needs of elderly people are considered, in order to alleviate the physical and mental decline associated with aging, and to take advantage of elderly people’s potential for the community. It is based on the paradigm of “active aging” that optimizes opportunities for health, participation, and security in order to enhance quality of life as people age. Thus, it is a process that continues throughout life and will be for all generations and not just for the elderly so anyone can enjoy its benefits.
Barcelona became a model of an age-friendly city as a result of its early action on the matter and started with its membership in the GNAFCC in 2011 that led to a series of projects making it a city that fosters the active and healthy aging of its inhabitants. A Municipal Plan for Older People in 2013 was developed through and shaped by the people themselves who submitted 17,000 proposals, which were transformed into 218 specific actions.
We have witnessed some of these projects whereby it becomes second nature for the residents to go out of their way to assist an elderly or even anyone placed in vulnerable situations – in simple incidents as crossing the street, asking for directions; or calling for an ambulance or the social services for someone in distress. Barcelona has the Radars Project which is “a system to prevent social isolation that functions with the support of a neighborhood who voluntarily agree to alert social services when they find someone who are in dire need of special care, support, or protection. One can also find in the parks, an office, or a hall catering to elderlies with daily program of activities including meals in company to promote socialization during mealtime. A music area and reading section are provided. An elderly can also sign-up as resource speaker in classes that are listed on the bulletin board where the date, time and venue are indicated. The office manager would interview the volunteers who, in most instances are also given a stipend or honorarium. Dance sessions and games for elderlies are also available.
Barcelona (or even in the other cities in Spain; Geneva, Switzerland; and Paris, France too) have very a efficient public transportation system. The buses, trams, and trains are very punctual. Therefore, the public is encouraged to ride them at cheap rates. An elderly person who resides in the city may apply for and is given a “tarjeta rosa” (pink card) giving him free access to public transport for a year and which is automatically annually renewed. The vehicles have specific number of seats reserved for the elderlies as well as the handicapped and pregnant women.
Barcelona and the whole of Spain by virtue of the General Health Care Act of 1986, has also one of the best public health care systems that I have experienced. The residents find no need to pay for a private health insurance, unless they need medical consultations at their own time. But emergency health care is immediately available to anyone, including tourists, especially when their lives are threatened. Any resident can call for an ambulance and within minutes the ambulance would arrive. A Catalan Health Card is given to the inha-bitants and they are assigned specific primary care center (CAP) which is closest to his place of residence. At the CAP, the residents are assigned specific “family” doctors to whom they consult health-related problems. Should the problem need specific treatment or further of an organ like the brain, eyes, ears, nose, throat, heart, kidney, liver, stomach, etc., the “family” doctor makes an appointment for you to see the concerned doctor. At the appointed date and time, the concerned doctor examines the patient, makes a diagnosis and if operation so warrants, an operation is scheduled. All these services are for free for the residents. Even maintenance medicines are available at minimal amount.
Indeed, Barcelona is a haven for seniors, truly an age-friendly city. Hopefully Baguio can be one too, and not just a favorite tourist destination.