SHARJAH, UAE: The Higher Follow-Up Committee for Sharjah’s Membership in the Global Network of Age-Friendly Cities met Thursday to take stock of the progress made after the Emirate’s recognition as the first Age-Friendly Arab city by the World Health Organization (WHO). The meeting, held at the Sharjah Center for Astronomy and Space Sciences, was attended by senior officials representing various Sharjah government institutions and departments and reviewed the progress made in implementing the age-friendly cities criteria in the Emirate of Sharjah, as recommended by the Global Network of Age-Friendly Cities of the WHO.
The 17 Sharjah government entities attending the meeting showcased their successful implementation of 39 strategic initiatives and activities that they launched as part of the 2017-20 Strategic Plan making Sharjah the first age-friendly city in the Arab world.
On this occasion, the Higher Committee also reviewed the statistics and progress achieved in the second half of 2017. The statistics showed that the number of successfully implemented standards jumped to 131 in December 2017, an increase of 20%, underlining the sincere efforts being exerted by various Sharjah government departments and institutions.
The meeting saw the launch of "Age-Friendly Housing" initiative by Sharjah Urban Planning Council. The move is aimed at issuing a list of age-sensitive engineering standards and requirements for the establishment and maintenance of houses. The project is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2018.
Another positive initiative, themed “Age-Friendly Public Places” by Sharjah Electricity and Water Authority (SEWA), which aims to provide lighting in places frequented by the elderly and has been implemented 114% also came in for praise.
The Executive Committee of Higher Committee for Follow-up of Sharjah’s Membership in the Global Network of Age-Friendly Cities has so far held seven meetings and shared 7 posts on its website as part of the efforts to supply the portal with the latest initiatives and partnerships.
As part of the initiative "Permanent Coordination with Representatives of the Entities Concerned with the Implementation of Initiatives", five meetings have been held and operational plans have been received from three entities to develop and improve the standards of age-friendly cities, namely the Human Resources Department, Sharjah Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and Sharjah Department of Suburbs and Villages Affairs.
The "Community Responsibility" initiative launched by the Sharjah Health Authority seeks to offer special benefits and discounts to people over 60 regardless of their nationality or the Emirate in which they live. As part of the initiative, contracts have been signed with two hospitals, namely Zulekha and Medcare.
The Sharjah Media Corporation has produced three short films stressing the importance of respecting the elderly. As part of the Age-friendly Public Transport Initiative launched by the General Directorate of Sharjah Police, the percentage of satisfaction with the services provided by the Sharjah Police rescue vehicles to the elderly in Sharjah has touched 91.6%.
As part of initiative, "Opening New Suburban Councils", the Department of Suburb and Rural Affairs has inaugurated six new councils. The "Community Responsibility" initiative by the Municipalities & Agriculture Affairs Department has been implemented by 80%, while the “Age-Friendly Public Places” by 75%.
The percentage of criteria in need of improvement has decreased by 14.3%, from 75 to 48 while the percentage of unmet standards has fallen to 6.3%. This demonstrates the relentless efforts being made by various entities to meet the programme’s criteria.
The Higher Committee has thanked various Sharjah institutions, government departments and private entities for their efforts and fruitful cooperation towards the implementation of the strategic plan, emphasising the importance of concerted efforts to achieve the vision of the Emirate of Sharjah as an ideal age-friendly city.
First Age-Friendly City in Region
Sharjah is the first Arab city among 414 major cities from around the world and one of the two Middle Eastern cities to join the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Global Network of Age-Friendly Cities and Communities.
In January 2017, His Highness Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Mohamed Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, issued an administrative decree (No. 2 of 2017) formally heralding the Emirate’s decision to join the Global Network for Age-Friendly Cities and Communities. The administrative decree issued by HH the Ruler of Sharjah underlines the importance of environment in determining healthy ageing and encouraging the creation of age-friendly environment in the Emirate. It aims to create a physical, healthy, social, economic and culturally sustainable environment in Sharjah, making the Emirate the best place for the elderly people to be and enjoy a quality life.
It was in 2006 that the WHO developed the criteria for Age-Friendly Cities and the network currently includes 33 cities from 22 countries.