New recommendations on making Manchester’s neighbourhoods more ‘age-friendly’ where older people can live in good security, enjoy good health and feel a sense of belonging in modern communities, have been presented by researchers at Manchester Metropolitan University.
The research is part of the PlaceAge Project, a national collaborative research project funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).
Age-friendly environments are becoming an increasingly pressing issue, as populations live longer lives in good health. By 2050, 89% of the UK’s population will live in cities and 24% will be over 65.
While urban environments offer benefits, for example increased access to travel and amenities, they can also lead to older people feeling vulnerable, isolated and sometimes ‘trapped’ in their homes due to fear of crime or anxieties related to travelling.
The research, conducted in neighbourhoods across Manchester, Edinburgh and Glasgow, collected over 540 surveys, conducted 400 interviews and accompanied older people on typical journeys around their neighbourhood to gain an insight into their experience.
Recommendations were given for the overall city, as well as the three neighbourhoods, Didsbury, Baguley and Rusholme, across themes including social participation, housing, neighbourhood planning and community spaces.
Similar research is also taking place in Brazil and feeds into the study, giving an international insight into how countries create age-friendly environments for their older citizens.
Reducing stigma and promoting integration is a key theme throughout the guidelines, challenging stereotypes and encouraging generations to interact and change perceptions of age groups, as well as share skills and interests.
Introducing flexible housing solutions that encourage multi-generational living are advised with older people also preferring to live in areas of mixed age-groups, rather than exclusively with others of a similar age, such as retirement communities.
The guidelines also include moving away from portraying older people as a vulnerable and ‘at risk’ group. Community events marketed as exclusively for ‘older people’ were found to be less appealing to their target audience, with a more neutral cross-generational approach preferred. Introducing more ‘active’ community initiatives is suggested, challenging stereotypes that older people will often be frail or immobile.
he differing needs of Manchester’s diverse population is also recognised, with a focus on the ethnic and cultural aspects of growing older, recommending the introduction of ‘cultural ambassadors’ to represent different demographics in communities, who can shape services and challenge assumptions, such as increased familial support.
Dr Jenny Fisher/Professor Rebecca Lawthom said: “The guidelines respond to important issues that older adults experience on a daily basis living in Manchester. We hope that the recommendations will be used to better support older adults to age in their neighbourhoods and communities.
“Since the publication of the guidelines, we have been contacted by policy makers, academics and those working with older adults, thanking the research team and those who participated for raising such important areas for future working. We will be continuing to publish our research findings from our work in the UK, Brazil and India and hosting an Economic and Social Research Council funded event about our findings on 6th November at Manchester Met University.”
Paul McGarry, Head of Greater Manchester Ageing Hub at the Greater Manchester Combined Authority’ said: “We all share a responsibility for ensuring that older adults have the resources to enable them to age at home and surrounded by community supports. These guidelines are therefore hugely important in working towards ensuring the delivery of equitable environments for older people.
“I would like to thank all those that have been involved in creating these guidelines and recommendations. Moving forward, work needs to be done to ensure that the guidelines and recommendations are implemented successfully to bring about meaningful change.”