Atkins, Mariana Teresa (2017). The geography of ageing in the city: An analysis of population dynamics and policy responses in Perth, Western Australia. Doctoral thesis (Human Geography and Planning), University of Western Australia.

Abstract: Population ageing is transforming societies and having profound economic and social effects on cities and countries throughout the world. This thesis examines the geography of ageing and associated policy and planning responses through a case study of Perth, Western Australia. The study uses a mixed-methods approach including quantitative and spatial analysis of census data, qualitative analysis of participant observations, interviews and documents, and Q-methodology. The findings are provided via four published and submitted research papers.

The demographic analysis undertaken for this thesis reveals that population ageing is not taking place evenly across the metropolitan area, and that peripheral parts of the city are experiencing the highest growth rates amongst older cohorts. Ageing-in-place, whereby older people live in their home for as long as they are able, was identified as the dominant trend. Nevertheless, distinct age-related internal migration patterns were observed with the pre-retirement and older-aged seniors exhibiting the most mobility. Additionally, although the majority of moves were short-distance, the younger ages moved farther afield than the older aged categories. The analysis concluded that in the coming decades we can assume that ageing concentrations will predominantly occur in the middle and outer suburbs of the city, in places that pose greater challenges for the provision of appropriate housing and support services to enable ageing-in-place within the community. The policy response to population ageing was critically analysed to see how the age-friendly city movement is shaping urban policies in Perth. Although some innovative policy approaches were identified there has been mixed adoption of the age-friendly approach across local governments. The findings revealed that the spatial heterogeneity of ageing across the city, and the diversity of the circumstances of older people, need to be better addressed in policy. Additionally, greater government support, and cross-sectoral collaboration were seen as key to moving from rhetoric to reality. There was consensus that innovative urban planning policies are needed supporting more compact urban form with greater infill and a varied mix of land uses and age-friendly developments. Alongside this, social planning that promotes community participation and counters ageism is critical. The thesis concludes with a discussion on the need to rethink ageing: instead of problematising population ageing, innovative policies and planning that take a holistic view of ageing and the life-course are needed to maximise the potential that the ‘longevity dividend’ can bring.

Mariana Teresa Atkins <mariana.atkins> is in the School of Earth and Environment, University of Western Australia, Perth, Australia.

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