#AFMIL The Age-Friendly Media and Information Literate City: Combining policies and strategies for ageing populations in media and information rich societies from Sheila Webber
Abstract: This paper examines the intersection between the Media and Information Literate (MIL) city and the Age-friendly city and considers the alignments between the two concepts. We contend that a MIL city develops and enables the MIL of its citizens and (through its policies, procedures and representatives) itself engages with its citizens in a media and information literate manner. A MIL city should collect, communicate and manage the information needed by its citizens, at all stages of their lifecourse, applying ethical and transparent information policies. However, earlier research by the authors identified that government’s information illiteracy is a problem (Webber and Johnston, 2002). Recent research has shown, e.g., that information needs of older people and their carers are not met by local government even when legislation seems to require it (Baxter et al; 2017; Think Local Act Personal, 2017).
Demographic ageing is a key challenge for societies and numerous issues arise: risk of intergenerational inequality; negative portrayal of older people in the media; need for urban renewal for anticipated population changes; specific adjustments in health, care and housing to accommodate older people; need for opposition to ageist behaviour (Johnston, 2016). Age-friendly Cities are one of the international responses to these issues. The World Health Organization (2017 p.3) identifies that “Age-friendly cities and communities foster healthy and active ageing and thus enable well-being throughout life. They help people to remain independent for as long as possible, and provide care and protection when they are needed, respecting older people’s autonomy and dignity.”
“Communication and information” is one of eight policy domains identified in the WHO (2017) Handbook for age-friendly environments. Some recommendations intersect with objectives familiar from “smart city” initiatives (e.g. digital connectivity for good access to assistive technologies in the home; smartphone apps tailored to needs of older people; closing the digital divide). However, the Handbook also identifies that age-friendly communication and information involves using word-of-mouth, traditional media, public meetings and neighbourhood centres. It means improving the accessibility of all forms of communication (from websites to signage).
An Age-friendly MIL (AFMIL) city values its older citizens. It pays attention to older people’s MIL development through specific policies and service programmes and enables them to contribute their own experience and stories using their MIL skills, recognising that “Every citizen is a creator of information/knowledge and has a message” (UNESCO, 2016). An AFMIL city identifies and satisfies citizens’ differing preferences for media and information channels. This includes recognising that older citizens are not one homogenous group and should not be stereotyped as deficient in their capacity to engage with MIL. Some older citizens may be adept users of virtual worlds, social media and the internet of things, demanding optimum broadband connectivity. Others may prefer to get their information from trusted human sources. AFMIL cities also need to be understood in terms of the varied contexts of power and authority in different national settings.
In this paper the authors draw together elements from frameworks for age-friendly, “smart” and MIL environments, and from research into information needs of older people, (such as those cited above) to present an encompassing analysis to generate new practices. They will also give some examples of cities pursuing age friendly developments, which could act as sites for MIL initiatives.
In the words of Archbishop Desmond Tutu: “As we get older, our rights do not change. As we get older, we are no less human and should not become invisible” (HelpAge International, 2016, p.3).
Baxter, K. et al (2017). Older self-funders and their information needs. Social Policy Research Unit, University of York. http://www.sscr.nihr.ac.uk/PDF/Findings/RF62.pdf
HelpAge International. (2016). Global Age Watch Index 2015 Insight report. http://www.helpage.org/global-agewatch/
Johnston, B. (2016). Ageing and information: The Scottish older people’s movement. Library and Information Research, 40(123), 4-13. https://www.lirgjournal.org.uk/index.php/lir/article/view/742
Think Local Act Personal. (2017) Survey Results Exploring the impact of the Care Act on the lives of people with care and support needs. https://www.basw.co.uk/resource/?id=6593
UNESCO. (2016). Five laws of MIL. http://www.unesco.org/new/en/communication-and-information/media-development/media-literacy/five-laws-of-mil/
Webber, S. and Johnston, B. (2002). Information literacy: the social action agenda. In: D. Booker. (Ed.) Information Literacy: The Social Action Agenda: Proceedings of the 5th National Information Literacy Conference. Adelaide: UNISA Library. 68-80.
World Health Organization Regional Office for Europe. (2017). Age-friendly environments in Europe: A handbook of domains for policy action. Copenhagen: WHO. http://www.euro.who.int/en/publications/abstracts/age-friendly-environments-in-europe.-a-handbook-of-domains-for-policy-action-2017