In 2016, the global population was estimated to be 7.4 billion; a figure that the United Nations believes will increase to 11.2 billion by the year 2100. Today, one in eight of those 7.4 billion people are over the age of 60. This number is expected to increase as our overall quality of life continues to improve and we all live longer - with life expectancy even breaking the 90 barrier as soon as 2030, according to Imperial College London and the World Health Organization.
At the same time, national governments and local authorities are facing unprecedented spending cuts, pensions are in crisis, the socio-economic challenges resulting from ageing are on the rise and isolation is an ever-growing shadow over elderly lives. Too often, what are supposed to be the golden years lose their sheen due to the limits imposed by changing circumstances.
Despite the changes in demographics, our built environments continue to largely focus on mid-lifers - able-bodied people who work during the day and return to their families and loved ones in the evening. But the time has come when more attention needs to be paid to those at the higher end of the age scale, to ensure they (and, in the not too distant future, we) can still enjoy a good quality of life.
Mobility is a key aspect in this. Easy access to familiar spaces within and outside our homes is essential to ensure that we can continue to live our lives in comfort. At the same time, technological advances have raised the bar on what is possible in nearly every aspect of our lives, so there is no reason why technology cannot be an enabler in making sure that people enjoy the best quality of life possible with no mobility restrictions.
Looking a little closer at mobility, we can take the humble chairlift as a prime example. First produced commercially in the 1930s for victims of polio, increasing knowledge and massive technological progress are now making chairlifts synonymous with sleek, elegant designs and in-built intelligent solutions, capable of seamlessly becoming part of a home and offering simple access solutions to anyone whose mobility is impaired.
In fact, mobility solutions such as these empower the elderly and disabled to retain control and independence in their lives, enabling them to live with dignity in familiar surroundings. Prior to becoming a distress buy or a point of embarrassment, they can now have a bespoke chairlift or home elevator installed as a positive quality of life choice.
As we focus on developing smart cities of the future, our ageing populations must not be overlooked. Whether it is innovative platform lifts at tourist sites and public transportation systems or customised chairlifts or home elevators in private homes and housing projects, ensuring the possible incorporation of intelligent accessibility and mobility should be a key objective for city planners and builders. After all, it's billions of people, including ourselves, that will be relying on them for many years to come.
Furthermore, cities have become a symbol of a higher quality of life, where we can expect the best in entertainment, social and economic infrastructure, and mobility. Most often in our homes we want more than a quick-fix solution: we want uniqueness and quality, reliability and personalisation.