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Age-friendly place making

Posted March 25th 2021 by Ruth

Age-friendly place making

Age-friendly place making

Learning from age-friendly leaders across the world

A reflection blog from our Community Development Adviser Ruth N, on intergenerational ideas she’s been hearing and learning about.

Recently I’ve attended several webinars on related topics. The themes were age, placemaking, and strengthening community connections, wellbeing and resilience for all. The first of these was a webinar hosted by IFIC, entitled ‘Age-friendly, healthy, connected communities’.

Age-friendly ecosystems

As Judith Sixsmith said, when introducing the ‘Age-friendly ecosystem’ research she led, ageism can be external or internal. When older people say ‘I’m too old’ they get embedded deeper into a perpetual circle of ageism. We repeat the idea that older age is about reliance and dependency – fuelled by societal norms and stereotypes.

We need to break away from this vicious cycle. As Judith said, older people should be ‘part and parcel of everyday life’. In other words, not just brought together into a certain place because of their age. They should be free to mingle (Covid excepting) with other age groups-  playing, learning and being together. She also emphasised why ‘place matters’. People should have the right to age well in the right place – not shut away from friends and family.

The webinar made a whistle-stop around the world tour, citing inspiring and innovative examples of communities and institutions attempting to tackle ageism in different ways.

How places connect people

Some of these were humble, unfunded projects such as Dementia-friendly Aberfeldy. This project involved family members of people living with dementia encouraging the town to become more inclusive for people living with dementia. This did not entail spending thousands on flashy new facilities. Rather, it meant working with existing buildings, groups and people to see what they could do. The focus centred around the iconic community cinema which built on its status as a local hub, connecting people of all ages and abilities.

Another initiative we heard about was Age-friendly Greater Manchester – this time an ambitious public-funded project with links to research and coordinated by a ‘Hub’. Greater Manchester has received the accolade of being the UK’s first age-friendly city region. Read more about the Greater Manchester ageing strategy here.

We then jumped across the Atlantic to hear from Natalia Pace who is involved in non-profit healthcare in Buenos Aires. Natalia talked about a simple mapping exercise (using Google maps) to identify community spaces and facilities accessible for people of all ages in the area. This resonates with the ’20-minute Neighbourhoods’ idea which is part of the new Scottish Government Programme.

Communities creating the map ahead

The Age-friendly places webinar included some discussion around getting local authorities on board. Community organisations will often be ahead of the game, connecting people of all ages with place-based initiatives. They have trusting local connections with people, and the public sector is starting to value this more. When all sectors and people of all ages work together, we are able to see great results in strengthening our local areas.

The next webinar I attended was entitled ‘Places and Spaces for Health and Wellbeing’; it was all around planning healthy spaces around people.

One speaker in this webinar, from Sustrans, talked some more about 20-Minute Neighbourhoods and mapping. The concept is very simple – and very age-friendly. The idea is that we should have all basic community facilities and services within walking/cycling distance of our homes. If people have to use a car to get places, this creates barriers based on ability and income, reinforcing inequalities.

Walking to get places is still important to many people as they get older – age doesn’t make active travel irrelevant! Of course many ‘older’ people walk for exercise or to get to places, and it is infinitely beneficial for wellbeing. Especially during Covid times, when for many of us walking is the only opportunity for safe social interaction.

Being outdoors for wellbeing

Next up was an evening webinar by Eden Project Communities: ‘The Nature of Connection: How being outdoors supports community wellbeing’…which started with a lovely relaxation exercise! We then heard from inspiring speakers on the themes of community, wellbeing and nature. It was wonderful hearing about meaningful projects connecting people with local green spaces, whether urban or rural.

The emphasis was on involving everyone in development and decision-making, supporting them to take ownership of local outdoor spaces. It was widely acknowledged that getting outside offers a first-stage safe way of reconnecting with others in our communities. This webinar was part of a series on Nature and Connections you can watch here.

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  • Posted by Ageing, connection and community spaces - Outside The Box on April 15th 2021
    […] on from my blog around age-friendly neighbourhoods, this blog considers the importance of getting outdoors, in nature and locally. This is so […]

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