ACPA – Adapting European Cities to Population Ageing: Policy Challenges and Best Practices

Theme:  Population Ageing, Age-friendly Cities


The European population is ageing rapidly, and this is particularly evident in the cities. According to Eurostat, the number of people aged 65 and over will almost double from 17% to 30% by 2060, and those aged 80 and over will rise from 5% to 12%. This significant demographic change is perceived as a major challenge for Europe’s social and health systems.

The eight stakeholders involved in ACPA, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Gothenburg, Hengelo, Greater Manchester, Nantes, Oslo and Zaragoza, have some of the highest percentages (>20%) of older people in their population in Europe, projected to increase to over 30% by 2030. These cities also experience increasing levels of transnational migration, spatial segregation, and pockets of deprivation, which impact on the lives of older people. Consequently, these cities need to adapt their policies and deliveries to better meet the needs of older residents.

Many cities have started developing and implementing age-friendly programmes. However, the main challenge for cities is less that we are living longer, but more that we are spending too many of our old age years in an urban environment designed by and for a younger and economically active population. This is an issue which has become an increasing challenge to the EU, and a number of initiatives have recently been launched by the European Commission to create awareness and provide support in dealing with these challenges.

ESPON ACPA will investigate the effectiveness of policies and initiatives to develop age-friendly cities and initiatives that support “ageing in place” in eight cities and city-regions. ACPA’s results will directly feed into the adaptation and development of policies and action plans related to age-friendly cities and social programmes including post-2020 cohesion policy.

Stakeholders’ knowledge needs

  • How do older people experience the daily life in the cities? How do they use their urban living environments? To what extent is this affected by disparate access to resources and services, e.g. economic, social, cultural and employment?
  • What do older people view as the benefits and constraints associated with urban living? How are such views influenced by social and cultural factors, gender, ethnicity as well as geographic location?
  • How are the eight stakeholder cities responding to population ageing? What kind of strategies and policies does each city have? Who are the key actors? To what extent are older people involved in and influence the development of these strategies? What kind of relationships are developing between generations and how is this supported? What kind of urban spaces can be created to strengthen interaction and reduce isolation of the older residents?
  • Which policies have been the most effective in developing age-friendly cities and how have they been implemented and which are the success factors? How can other project partner cities learn from this and adapt successful policies? How can these good practices serve as examples for other European cities facing population ageing?

Main outcomes

  • An overview and analysis of the demographic development patterns in the EU member States concerning e.g. age structure, gender balance and life expectancy, with a particular focus on people above 65 years for the period 2000-2017. Predictions for future development of the ageing population should also be addressed. A breakdown should then be provided for the eight stakeholder cities.
  • New insights into the quality of life of older people ‘ageing in place’ in different types of cities. Particular attention should be given to the sub-groups within the older population, e.g. single households, men-women, minority ethnic groups, and those living in ‘gentrifying’ neighbourhoods.
  • Knowledge about how urban living and environments can assist and benefit the social integration and civic participation of older people (especially those experiencing social exclusion) within urban areas.
  • Good examples of how to develop better methods for working with older people as key partners, e.g. participatory action research, to improve the quality of information and decision-making in areas affecting the lives of older people, but also how to support older people to become/remain economically active.
  • Improved understanding of how to prevent social isolation in later life, by exploring how support networks and inter-generational relationships can be developed within different types of neighbourhoods.
  • The development of a cross-national community of practice, fostering mutual learning between cities regarding how to change communities for more optimal experiences of ageing in different types of environments.

In-depth case studies will be carried out in the stakeholder cities; in addition, the researchers will draft a “practical guide” with good practices and policy recommendations that can enable transferability of the ACPA outcomes to other cities. The guide will target actors and policy makers in the stakeholder cities and at the national level.

Ultimately, the results of ESPON ACPA will provide a better understanding of the impact of the policies implemented in each stakeholder city and contribute to strengthening policies and initiatives towards developing more age-friendly cities not only for the stakeholder cities, but also Europe as a whole.


  • Greater Manchester Combined Authority/Greater Manchester Ageing Hub, UK (lead stakeholder)
  • City of Hengelo (representing Netwerkstad Twente), NL
  • Barcelona City Council/Social Rights Department, ES
  • The Public Health Service of Amsterdam, NL
  • City of Gothenburg/Senior Gothenburg (City Development Unit for Elderly Affairs), SE
  • City of Oslo/Department of older people, health and employment, NO
  • City of Nantes, FR
  • Zaragoza City Council, ES


  • Ecorys Nederland B.V., NL (lead contractor)
  • Nordregio, SE
  • Ecorys UK Limited, UK
  • Ecorys España Ltda, ES


€ 248.972,00


January 2019 – January 2020


  • Inception delivery, 11 February 2019
  • Interim delivery, 10 May 2019
  • Draft Final delivery, 10 October 2019
  • Final delivery, 10 January 2020




00. ACPA infographic.pdf

1. ACPA Main report.pdf

2. ACPA Synthesis report.pdf

3. ACPA Scientific annex.pdf

4. ACPA Annex - Demographic maps and figures.pdf

6. ACPA_city report_Amsterdam.pdf

7. ACPA_city report_Barcelona.pdf

8. ACPA_city report_Gothenburg.pdf

ESPON ACPA city report Greater Manchester_EN.pdf

10. ACPA_city report_Hengelo.pdf

11. ACPA_city report_Nantes.pdf

12. ACPA_city report_Oslo.pdf

13. ACPA_city report_Zaragoza.pdf

ESPON ACPA policy handbook_EN.pdf

ESPON ACPA policy handbook_ES.pdf

ESPON ACPA policy handbook_FR.pdf

ESPON ACPA policy handbook_NL.pdf

ESPON ACPA policy handbook_NO.pdf

ESPON ACPA policy handbook_SE_new.pdf

ESPON ACPA city report Amsterdam_NL.pdf

ESPON ACPA city report Barcelona_ES.pdf

ESPON ACPA city report Goteborg_SE_new.pdf

ESPON ACPA city report Hengelo_NL.pdf

ESPON ACPA city report Nantes_FR.pdf

ESPON ACPA city report Oslo_NO.pdf

ESPON ACPA city report Zaragoza_ES.pdf