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What is an age-friendly world?
It is a place that enables people of all ages to actively participate in community activities. It is a place that treats everyone with respect, regardless of their age. It is a place that makes it easy to stay connected to those around you and those you love. It is a place that helps people stay healthy and active even at the oldest ages. And it is a place that helps those who can no longer look after themselves to live with dignity and enjoyment. Many cities and communities are already taking active steps towards becoming more age-friendly. You will find more information about these in our section on the WHO Global Network of Age-friendly Cities and Communities. However, many barriers persist. Some of these are physical, for example, poorly designed buildings or lack of transportation that prevents older people accessing the places they want to visit. But many barriers result simply from the way we think about ageing and the way we view and treat older people.
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That sense of being lost, of having to do daily battle with loneliness, lasted for four exhausting years. Those years saw my sleep go haywire, my body grow fat, and my sense of self shatter.

And what bothers me most is that no one asked me what was happening. Friends and relatives probably had some sense that I was lonely, but they couldn't peer inside the state and appreciate what was really taking place. My life was unravelling amid constant, unspoken suggestions that loneliness didn't matter, that it wasn't really "real".

It was real. My loneliness swallowed me up. I fear it descending again. And what I fear is something substantive, like fearing a car crash. I know what happens when you're lonely. I know about the voices, the sense of vanishing, the horrible envy of others. No one should have to endure years like that. No one, especially, should have to endure years like that when everyone around them thinks that loneliness is something trivial, something that hardly affects you at all.

Emily White is the author of Lonely: A Memoir, published by HarperCollins.

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