Building cities for an ageing population

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Demographic change is one of the key factors impacting infrastructure planning. Like many developed countries, Australia’s population is ageing. The number and proportion of older Australians is expected to continue to grow. By 2056, the federal government projects there will be 8.7 million older Australians (22% of the population).

The ageing population is likely to increase the demand for health care facilities. Public transport and commercial buildings such as shopping centres will have to become more aware of providing for older people who often have mobility issues. A new planning tool reported in an article by US think tank The Brookings Insitution could help with decisions on where to place this needed infrastructure.

The question planners need to answer is where exactly will the elderly live? Without this critical piece of information, building infrastructure that caters to the elderly, a diverse group that includes both those who are infirm as well as highly mobile, will have no chance of successfully meeting their needs.

The report looks at a digital tool called “AgeSpot” developed by the European Space Agency. This tool should help to provide the information to allow the detailed planning needed. By applying econometric and demographic modelling techniques to census, land-use, and satellite data, the AgeSpot algorithm was taught to find patterns of relationships between humans and their physical surroundings.

The model was tested in the Austrian capital Vienna. AgeSpot’s analytical engine was fed inputs from a number of sources that ultimately enabled it to predict Vienna’s current age distribution with more than 95 percent degree of precision.

Next, the tool was taught to apply this logic to spatial patterns and clues, city block by city block. At the 50-square-metre resolution, AgeSpot could accurately predict the relative and absolute shares of the elderly in each district and neighbourhood of the city.

This highlights the possibilities available with developments in machine learning and artificial intelligence. Bigdata and the ability to manipulate it are going to be key tools for planners of future infrastructure.

For a detailed look at infrastructure and the impact of technology, please see our BI Research Smart Infrastructure Report

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