Creating age-friendly neighbourhoods

Annual Congress X – Health, Happiness & Wellbeing

Mike Walsh – Senior Service Manager, Birmingham City Council
Janet Sutherland – Director, AoU

The workshop opened with a series of presentations from Mike Walsh, Sherry Hall, Steve Calaway and Janet Sutherland. The presentation topics discussed both themes areas of housing and neighbourhoods. Mike Walsh opened the presentations with some figures illustrating that the trend is going upwards for aging and urban-based populations. With this comes a need for access to services, however previous research found that opportunities for intergenerational co-operation and collaboration should be used. This would help with some of the associated high-levels of deprivation, lack of security and safety, and the lack of access to infrastructure in aging communities. These issues were discussed throughout.

Many of the presentations also touched on the fact that there is increasing pressure on social care budgets. Councils are starting to look at ways to keep people in their own homes, but also promote awareness of age-friendly design in new build developments. Sherry Hall provides some useful examples on how certain new build projects have achieved this in the East Midlands. Using a slightly different approach, Steve Calaway illustrated how to design, plan and deliver existing homes to lifetime home standards – arguing that some people want the option of staying in their homes. Steve presented an adaptable model with the ground floor becoming accessible. The two presentations provided an interesting comparison.

Janet Sutherland concluded the presentations, asking key questions about how to create age-friend cities, and in-turn, healthy cities. Cities should be designed for all ages, not just the elderly, with a mix of shared social spaces throughout. With this comes the need to integrate lifetime homes within neighbourhoods, creation of parks, common space and signage just to name a few. This helped transition into the group discussions well.

Discussion:

The group had a useful closing discussion, with a range of questions examined in more detail. The opening question was whether to work from existing communities or create new (independent) developments away from city centres? Many felt that it was better to create places within walking distance to offers, which also allowed for interaction with younger populations. This does however require a change in neighbourhood design standards.

The audience then raised interesting points on whether incentives or shared ownership policies could be introduced. Incentives such as paying the stamp duty were discussed. In addition, some attendees discussed introducing co-housing scheme across different age groups. There are some good schemes in Europe, which could help frame examples.

In conclusion the workshop highlighted challenges Birmingham is facing, not only with new housing, but also the typology of the city. This raises the questions on how to persuade developers. The group expressed agreement that most people would want general needs in town centres, but this also requires the introduction of rehabilitation / regeneration schemes to design for age-friendly communities. Interventions could however be both large and small-scale. It’s ultimately about choice and not designing cities only for certain age groups.

 

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