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Ageing, connection and community spaces

Posted April 15th 2021 by Ruth

Ageing, connection and community spaces

Ageing, connection and community spaces

Ageing and placemaking

Following on from my blog around age-friendly neighbourhoods, this blog considers the importance of getting outdoors, in nature and locally. This is so important for all of us, at all ages.

20-Minute Neighbourhoods

The concept of 20-Minute Neighbourhoods is very simple – and very age-friendly. It’s the idea that we should have all basic community facilities within walking and cycling distance of our homes. If a car is needed to get places, this penalises people who can’t drive because of ability or affordability. There is an assumption we must drive to get to any destination, that walking is only for pleasure or exercise.

In many ways, the 20-minute neighbourhoods concept is nothing new. Our grandparents and great-grandparents were accustomed to walking to the shops, to the doctor and to meet people. As we heard at a Scottish Rural Parliament session, living in a rural area poses obvious problems for the concept. But in Castle Douglas these problems have been turned on their head to provide solutions in the form of a one-stop town website. This lets out-of-town shoppers buy all their supplies on one site, and have them delivered. This is a kind of local  ‘Amazon for one town’ – a virtual high street where people can spend their money locally.

The nature of connection

During Covid times, some people shielding or being careful about encountering others have spent less time in public. Hopefully, with restrictions easing and the vaccination programme getting underway things should start to feel safer.

In Eden Project Communities’ webinar ‘The Nature of Connection: How being outdoors supports community wellbeing’ we heard inspiring speakers on community, wellbeing and nature. They introduced meaningful real-life projects which connect people with a local green space, whether urban or rural.

The emphasis was on involving real people in the community in development and decision-making, supporting them to take ownership of their local outdoor spaces. This applied to all ages, people from marginalised  backgrounds, young people who are disengaged, etc. It’s widely acknowledged that getting outside is a safe way to reconnect with others in our communities. This webinar was part of a series, see links to recordings and more info here.

Making shared spaces accessible

At Outside the Box we help people make places easily usable for all ages and abilities. For example, we supported Living Streets with some work in Hawick where they undertook simple audits of routes around the town. This led to installation of more dropped kerbs and street furniture.

Our Garden Buddies project learned from a dementia-friendly garden in Dumbarton, then improved facilities in community gardens to make them accessible and welcoming for people living with dementia. We shared this experience with partners, community groups and researchers. Now that we are coming out of Lockdown, we’re open to further opportunities to support groups to safely get outdoors in gardening spaces.

Our Families Wellbeing projects have supported families to connect with different generations during the last few difficult months. In the projects we found different ways to support grandchildren to stay connected with grandparents. Online quizzes, knitting and recipe sharing have been great for connection. We have also shared different ways to get outdoors with the family and with others.

As the weather and pandemic improve, we look forward to supporting more people to reconnect in the outdoors!

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