When imagining life in a future city, several elements are not in dispute: The rapid pace of urbanization will place pressure on city resources, while the ability to manage social and service-oriented impacts of urbanization will become more important.
Loss of family cohesion and the stresses of high-density urban living will increase the demand and need for mental health services, as well as other types of social support assistance.
Recognizing these key challenges can help us build a better city of the future today.
Tackling future city urbanization issues
In recent years, smart city discourse has moved beyond improving city services and creating efficiencies to embrace a citizen-centric vision. The strategic focus now is addressing issues such as health, well-being, and improved citizen productivity. Connected systems are being initiated to improve city living by making things work better and more sustainably, tackling issues like pollution, congestion, crime, and social isolation.
For example, in Australia the Casserole Club links home cooks with elderly diners online. It’s an intelligent approach to health and social care that places people at the heart of the program while meeting critical needs of citizens.
Today, city authorities are examining how smart technologies can help create equitable, inclusive cities in which the most vulnerable in society are not excluded and are able to take advantage of digital solutions.
A question of balance
When we look at the global numbers, we can see a need for significant planning to address an aging population. In 2017, 962 million people were over the age of 60. Data from the World Population Prospects: the 2017 Revision notes that this number will increase to 2.1 billion in 2050 and 3.1 billion in 2100. Indeed, the UN says population aging is poised to become one of the most significant social transformations of the 21st century, with implications for nearly all sectors of society – labor and financial markets, housing, transportation, and social protection.
It’s a big challenge that will entail balancing the disparate needs of the working population and programs designed to increase city/national revenue against the delivery pressure of providing higher levels of care and services to residents – including a growing populace of elderly constituents.
Cities and nations must generate revenue in order to survive. Balancing the needs of citizens against the pressure to provide high-quality care and services to residents is a call to action that cities cannot ignore.
So, what could life look like for the elderly in a future city?
Improving elderly care in a future city: Enabling age-friendly cities
Home-based care in the community could be truly transformed in a future city.
Imagine Jane, age 70, who has mobility issues and is being treated for diabetes. She wants to continue living safely in her own home, so her healthcare worker sets up an IoT health tracker to monitor her activity, blood pressure, fluid intake, and mobility. Both Jane’s healthcare worker and her son, Paul, who lives 50km away, have permission to view the information, with alerts delivered for concerning changes.
Using her phone to access her personal citizen dashboard, Jane can see all her bills from any government entity and her health monitoring information alongside a marketplace that makes it easy for her to source local support groups and service providers that have been assessed and approved.
She clicks a chatbot button to ask fellow users their experience when using a local plumber and gets their feedback. After the plumber visits, she completes a simple feedback survey to provide emotional analytics on how safe she felt in her house while the plumber was onsite and how she felt about the service she received. This feedback provides rich contextual data to the provider, the government, and potential customers.
During a spell of hot weather, a remote blood sugar and hydration monitor triggers a text message to Jane telling her to drink more water and to eat some fresh fruit. She also receives information about a water exercise class run by a local aged care agency that would help improve her strength and mobility. She is rewarded with points for every session she attends and can use those points for discounts in community shops and cafes.
Jane’s son Paul gets an email about a new check-in service offered by the post office and submits a request asking the postman to scan a QR code by Jane’s door to confirm he has seen and spoken to Jane twice a week. If she’s not well, the postman can automatically notify emergency services, while Paul receives an instant update.
Meanwhile, based on her known interests and preferences, Jane receives a text message about a new volunteer program helping preschoolers with arts and crafts activities. She accumulates more points for volunteering in the community.
By enabling a holistic approach to well-being and coordinating information and services, the future city ensures Jane won’t have to move into a state-run or private-care home that could bankrupt her and ruin her quality of life. This smarter and more connected approach ensures that Jane, her immediate family, and the wider community can be actively engaged in maximizing her quality of life – and enabling her to contribute to the community.
Of course, there are many other helpful technologies that can be woven in, but fundamentally, this “city as a platform” approach will enable cities of the future to achieve their unique and individual goals.
Using these platforms, smart cities can bring citizens and private sector providers together to actively engage in high-impact, citizen-centric services that can be personalized as an individual’s needs evolve. As our Putting People First video shows, today’s smart city administrators are already looking for ways to evolve their citizen engagement and digital service delivery infrastructures.
Earlier this year, we explored potential challenges that future cities could face in the 21st century. Join us in March as we survey attendees at SXSW in Austin, Texas, to ask them their expectations of their current municipalities and more.