SINCE JOINING WHO’S GLOBAL NETWORK OF AGE-FRIENDLY CITIES, EMIRATE HAS POSTED IMPRESSIVE PROGRESS IN ALL 8 DOMAINS
The Higher Follow-Up Committee for Sharjah's Membership in the Global Network of Age-Friendly Cities has revealed that since the launch of the programme in 2017 until November 2018, as much as 52 per cent of the 2017-20 Strategic Plan had been implemented by 17 of Sharjah’s government entities.
As many as 40 strategic initiatives had been launched as part of the WHO’s eight age-friendly domains: external spaces and buildings; transportation; housing; community participation; respect and social inclusion; civil participation and employment; communications and information; community support; and health services.
42.3% of External Spaces, Buildings Domain Completed
With regard to external spaces and buildings, the percentage of completion reached 42.3 per cent. It included 120 inspections and modifications by the Roads & Transport Authority (RTA) of pedestrian zones and sidewalks and 183 seats provided by the RTA and Department of Municipal Affairs across roads, bus stops and public spaces.
The Sharjah Electricity and Water Authority (SEWA) lighted 120 streets around different mosques, while the Department of Municipal Affairs, in coordination with the various municipalities, provided waiting seats across 22 public parks around the Emirate.
66.7% of Transportation Domain Implemented
As far as the age-friendly transportation is concerned, 66.7 per cent of the plan has been implemented. Special discounts were given to senior public transportation users by the Roads and Transport Authority, while the Sharjah Police General Directorate provided private transportation services for bedridden patients.
As for housing, the Sharjah Urban Planning Council issued a list of age-sensitive engineering standards and requirements for the establishment and maintenance of houses, bringing the completion percentage to nearly 50 per cent.
As part of the 66.6 per cent completed of the community participation domain, the Social Services Department launched Al Asala Club programmes for the elderly, including 11,154 health, recreation and social programmes. Meanwhile, the Sharjah Heritage Institute held two heritage exhibitions, the Districts and Village Affairs Department inaugurated three councils across the Emirate, and the Sharjah Sports Council organised 12 sports activities for older people. Moreover, the Sharjah Government Media Bureau allocated seats for older members of the society to attend different events in the Emirate.
Initiatives for Happiness of Older Persons
Completion percentage at the level of respect and social inclusion reached 47.4 per cent. The Sharjah Social Services Department organised two leisure trips outside the UAE for the elderly, raising their level of satisfaction and happiness. Meanwhile, the Sharjah Health Authority signed agreements with four private hospitals, namely Zulekha, Medcare, Al Zahra and Cure, to grant those over the age of 60 special benefits and discounts.
The Sharjah Police General Directorate, in cooperation with the Social Services Department, held 62 lectures and workshops on aging and the shifting demographic pyramid. The Sharjah Broadcasting Authority produced three short films portraying parents’ role in instilling respect for the elderly in their children. Moreover, the Sharjah Government Media Bureau initiated 686 participations in the Committee’s various social media accounts, as part of the Effective and Age-Friendly Social Media initiative, while the Sharjah Education Council launched the ‘Dutiful Son’ award, which was given to 45 winners.
Voluntary opportunities for community participation
The Department of Social Services accounted for 44.5% implementation in the domain of civil participation and employment. The Department of Social Services that includes the Al Khair and Al Baraka initiatives implemented 17 programmes with 93 volunteers. The study of legislation against age discrimination in Sharjah has conclusively established that the Emirate is free of all age discrimination against the elderly.
68.6% Implementation in IT, Communication Sector
The information and communications sector accounted for 68.6% implementation with the Sharjah Department of eGovernment introducing public telephone and communication services for the elderly. Three workshops were held for the elderly teaching them the use of various electronic services and communication applications. Each week various social, health and cultural topics were chosen for the benefit of the elderly, reaching about 66 episodes a week.
Upgrading health services
In the community support and health services sector representing 37.4 per cent implementation, the Social Services Department launched the 24/7 Rahma Home Nursing Service, one of the most strategic initiatives that achieved 100 per cent implementation. In addition to launching various programmes for the rehabilitation of the elderly, the Department of Social Services in partnership with the University of Sharjah hosted seven workshops benefitting 470 people.
The Higher Committee for Follow-up of Sharjah's Membership in the Global Network of Age-Friendly Cities has been working with 45 government organisations and entities to implement the WHO standards and norms.
In terms of initiatives supporting the programme in the statistical and information fields, and one of the key initiatives of the Higher Committee for Follow-up of Sharjah's Membership in the Global Network of Age-Friendly Cities, which reached about 45.4 per cent, the Medina Index or the City Index was created to measure services for the elderly. The SGMB supported the historic work of the Committee and the various initiatives by other with Sharjah government institutions with as many as 314 press releases.
The Executive Office of the Higher Committee has also kept the dedicated website, created specifically to monitor the progress and implementation of various institutions and entities, informed and updated about the latest initiatives and achievements, which accounted for 15% implementation. The Executive Office held nine meetings to monitor and document the work of the Committee.
The performance indicator measured the Committee work through the evaluation of 44 meetings, in addition to the implementation of 31 coordination meetings with representatives to launch new activities to meet 189 standards.
His Highness Sheikh Sultan bin Mohamed Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, who has dedicated his government to serve the people, from the birth to the ripe old age, has always kept human being at the centre of all development initiatives and the foundation of community development in the Emirate.
His constant guidance and visionary leadership, from the conception to the formal announcement in September 2016 declaring Sharjah as the first Arab city to join the WHO’s Global Network of Age-Friendly Cities and its successful implementation of all the WHO standards and norms, has helped the Emirate emerge as a hub of services aimed at human development.
His Highness the Ruler of Sharjah issued the administrative decree No. 2 of 2017, creating a sustainable and healthy physical, social, economic and cultural environment that will enable elderly residents to benefit from all services and resources with ease and dignity and share their experiences with others to contribute to the development of society.
All Sharjah government agencies and entities have been very enthusiastic in embracing the leadership’s vision, launching a plethora of programmes and initiatives in accordance with the guidelines of the Global Network for Age-Friendly Cities. They contribute to the development and sustainability of services for the elderly in all sectors, in addition to raising the community awareness about preparing for the demographic shift in favour of the elderly. Thanks to the rapid aging of the population and comprehensive healthcare for the population as well as the empowerment of older persons to integrate into society, cities need to prepare for challenges ahead.