Age-friendly Cities

Posted in: News on January 8, 2013

A recent newspaper article suggests growing concerns by the Health Secretary and the Department of Health’s Clinical Director for Older People Services that Government had to address the culture of “ticking the box but missing the point”. While the focus of the article was in relation to care standards across the NHS there are in important messages for all of us involved with promoting positive ageing and ensuring we care for older people with dignity and respect. This is also why it is so important we get our age-friendly programmes right and that we really do develop better places for people to grow older, not for them but with them.As with all initiatives it is important that we know ‘how’, ‘when’ and in ‘what ways’ we are making a difference. This in itself is very challenging and complex, not least in satisfying a range of key players- funding providers, national and local organisational leaders and of course the people we are focused on supporting – older people themselves.Through the UK Urban Ageing Consortium we are developing a UK wide Network of Cities to take collaborative approaches in making cities better places for people to grow older. A key focus of this will be through shared learning. By exploring ‘what really works and why’ and sharing practice both good and developmental through constructive challenge in trusted environments we can really shape change and make a difference. Through a series of Enquiry Visits we have started on this programme of ‘two-way’ learning. Our pilot Enquiry visit was to Manchester, the first UK city to be accepted into the World Health Organisation’s Global Network of Age–Friendly Cities. Key lines of enquiry focused on the ‘creating a better understanding of engagement and empowerment of older people’. Through a series of constructive conversations, most with older people themselves we gained real insights into the approaches taken across the City, through the lens of key players. We heard for example how important the Cultural Champions scheme has been in developing new and extending existing social networks through new cultural experiences – for one participant this was described as a ‘real lifeline’. The collaborative nature of Age-friendly Manchester is key to its success and there is a culture of shared responsibility to ensure this continues.The energy, commitment and enthusiasm is a thread which runs through the whole programme and while Manchester recognises that ‘missing the point’ can still be a real danger, especially in the climate of budget reductions and competing priorities there is no better mechanism than the voice of Manchester’s older people themselves to be first in raising the alarm call!


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