The academic literature contains little information regarding the interventions that create age-friendly cities and communities in order to promote active ageing. Objectives:
A systematic review was carried out to determine the available empirical evidence in relation to the characteristics, content and effectiveness of interventions aimed at improving environmental and psychosocial risk factors for older people, from the perspective of age-friendly communities and the promotion of active ageing. Methods:
Following the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) guidelines, the studies retained in this review were identified through a systematic search of the academic literature in selected electronic databases including Web of Science and Scopus. Independent critical appraisal and data extraction were conducted by two reviewers. The checklist was used to assess the quality of the articles. Findings
: The search identified 1020 potentially eligible documents, of which 11 satisfied the established criteria. Non-exhaustive practices prevailed over rigorous investigations, with a high proportion of studies observed to be of low methodological quality and at high risk of bias. This reflected the predominance of uncontrolled interventions. Environmental interventions were focused on reducing risk and adapting the everyday environmental setting, while psychosocial interventions prioritised social strategies (behavioural changes, promotion of participation) and training. Interventions were more effective in certain domains of age-friendly cities and communities such as transportation and housing, followed by increased participation as a lifestyle-related behavioural change. The inferred changes were associated with providing information and enhancing skills; modifying access, barriers, exposures, and opportunities; enhancing services and support; continuity and effectiveness of changes over time; and modifying policies based on the bottom-up approach of age-friendly cities and communities (AFCC). Discussion and conclusion:
Interventions focused on personal and organisational aspects might have positive effects in the longer term. However, fewer changes would be observed in interventions revolving around changing lifestyles owing to the impact of complex multi-causal factors. The relative effectiveness in terms of health calls into question the design of interventions and the supposed “friendliness” of certain communities. There is a need to encourage sound longitudinal research aimed at providing key knowledge for the implementation and evaluation of public policies, and to encourage age-friendly community programmes to promote active ageing.
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