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Launch of age-friendly consortium
Our research shows that cities have a large number of older people who have spent their life in the same neighbourhood. However, they are often the last to be consulted when it comes to decision-making within their area."
People aged 65 plus are the fastest growing age group in Britain and by 2035, 23 per cent of the population is expected to be aged 65 and over.
With the World Health Organisation increasing its focus on the need for age-friendly cities, Keele University has joined forces with Manchester City Council and national charity, Beth Johnson
Foundation to launch a new UK-wide Consortium for the development of age-friendly environments.
This unique collaboration, which began in 2010 and saw the launch of Manchester as the first UK age-friendly city will encourage strategic and practical innovations to transform older people’s experience of living in urban environments. Evaluating the success of work to date in Manchester, the Consortium will now develop a framework with a view to working with a number of other UK cities.
Chris Phillipson, Professor of Social Gerontology at Keele University explains: ‘We believe that developing new policies and approaches to involving older people in the social and economic life of cities will be a crucial task for urban development and the vitality of urban life in the years ahead.
“Our research shows that cities have a large number of older people who have spent their life in the same neighbourhood. However, they are often the last to be consulted when it comes to decision-making within their area. The forces influencing urban change tend to be focused on the needs of the labour market as cities are increasingly viewed as key drivers for economic growth.
“Research also suggests that older people rarely feature in policies aimed at regenerating localities or broader efforts aimed at promoting sustainable urban development and that people –especially those in late old age - may feel a sense of loneliness and alienation, disadvantaged by the pace of urban change.
“The development of a nationally-recognised Consortium is an exciting next step towards making
cities more ‘age-friendly’ and recognising the needs of different generations within cities.”
Named the UK’s first member of the WHO age-friendly city Global Network in 2010, much work has been done in Manchester to test approaches to creating age-friendly neighbourhoods. By working alongside older people in the community, several networks and older ‘urban auditors’ have been put in place to offer older people a more active role in society and a cultural programme designed to take the arts into Manchester’s communities has been launched. The Council has also started to assess infrastructure in the city working alongside urban planners.
Councillor Sue Cooley, Manchester City Council's lead member for Valuing Older People project, explains: “Since 2003 the city’s ageing work has grown in scope and stature leading to Manchester officially being named an age-friendly city in 2010.
“Older residents have shaped the work at every step of the way and despite the difficult economic climate that we find ourselves in, we genuinely believe that Manchester’s ‘age-friendly’ plans can only enhance the quality of life for older people in the city. We are delighted to be a part of the Consortium
launch and help other cities implement our age-friendly initiatives.
“By developing age-friendly environments we can better encourage older people to participate in their communities, which can only be a good outcome for everyone living in urban environments in the long-term.”
The Consortium was officially launched at the British Society of Gerontology Conference held at Keele University. The launch coincides with the European Year for Active Ageing and Solidarity between Generations and is just one of a number of initiatives that Keele University has been involved in in regards to active ageing research.
The Valuing Older People (VOP) Partnership, part of Public Health Manchester at Manchester City Council has ambitious plans for its older population detailed in the Manchester Ageing Strategy (MAS). As the only UK city in the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Global Network of Age-friendly Cities, Manchester is developing its age-friendly city programme by developing programmes and projects that address the eight WHO domains and MAS strategic objectives.
The Beth Johnson Foundation is a leading national voluntary organisation that seeks to make a positive impact on the lives of older people, to gain recognition for the valuable role older people play and to challenge age discrimination through pioneering initiatives that bring together research, policy and best practice.
Keele University has been at the forefront of research, teaching and policy development in the
field of ageing. One of their central objectives is to provide a sound evidence base for policy and practice so that research contributes to well-being and quality of life.