Local and national policy-makers are failing to ensure that our communities meet the needs of all ages according to a new report, 'Community Matters. Making our Communities Ready for Ageing'.
Community Matters, published by the International Longevity Centre – UK (ILC-UK), with the support of Age UK, incorporates a 10 point call to action for local authorities to become ready for ageing.
The report argues that policy makers must work to ensure that communities do more than cater for our basic needs. It argues that communities should be places of fun for all. The report highlights the importance of supporting walking and cycling in old age as well as need to ensure housing is adaptable to an ageing society.
New analysis published as part of the report reveals that simply to keep up with anticipated population growth between now and 2037, we will need to build houses at the fastest rate since the 1970s.
The report explores the Government's plan for a new Garden City in Ebbsfleet and highlights ideas to make the new community "age friendly". Ideas include the creation of shared facilities for fun and play, and the introduction of Electric 'pods' to transport people around.
Baroness Sally Greengross, Chief Executive of ILC-UK said:
"Our homes are not just places to live and our towns and cities should not just provide for our basic needs. We must have a bold and aspirational vision for communities in an ageing society. Cities and towns must of course, meet our basic needs. Yet they are failing to do so. We are even failing to provide public toilets. But our aspiration for age friendly cities must be much greater than providing toilets.
Communities can reduce loneliness and isolation but we must make sure that services exist and well intentioned "safeguarding" does not prevent all ages from living, working and playing together. And we need community centres rather than "places to hire".
Good communities start with good housing. As well as building more, we need to build better.
Our society is ageing. Our communities could help us age well but they are simply not ready for ageing. We must build a new ambition vision of the community of the future. An older community, but also hopefully a more fun one.”
Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK says:
"Our population is ageing and it is essential that communities start to think now about how best to enable older people to get out and about and access essential services. The alternative is that as we age we are increasingly stuck at home and cut off from the rest of society limiting our ability to enjoy life, to socialise and stay independent for longer. More toilets and seats will be essential for all of us but we should be more ambitious for later life and start building communities that do more than just work for older people but provide greater opportunities for participation”.
Malcolm Dean, who chaired the expert discussions added:
"The last century saw major breakthroughs in dealing with the injuries of biological ageing. This new century needs to apply the same energy and commitment to resolving the injuries of social ageing – isolation, loneliness, and exclusion from too many community activities. The report is packed with simple and inexpensive new approaches to making neighbourhoods more 'age friendly'".
The report incorporates an ideas bank of recommendations in order to ensure that our Communities are "Ready for Ageing" including:
• Making our communities fun (swings at bus stops): Local authorities should support provision of desegregated apparatus for fun in outdoor spaces that includes people of all ages
• Build more homes and ensure they are accessible and adaptable: The Lifetime Homes Standard should be made mandatory and Government should introduce a tax incentivised voucher scheme for housing adaptations.
• Let us know about our housing options (a "last time movers" guide): Estate agents should be trained to better understand the potential needs of the older consumer and could better promote the Lifetime Homes Standard.
• Get us walking: Replace the older people crossing road sign with a sign with more positive imagery promoting walking as part of later life. Develop budding services to encourage people to walk to town and services. Maintain pavements.
• Get us on our bikes: Increasing numbers of cyclists across the life-course should be prioritised as a public health, environmental and social goal by Health and Wellbeing Boards and Local Authorities.
• Ensure access to green space: Recognise the health benefits of access to green space, and placing some spending on green space under the umbrella of health.
• Tackle loneliness and isolation: Community centres should protect time for local group activities to maintain the space as community resource (as opposed to a hall for hire). Safeguarding systems should not unnecessarily 'kill kindness' by stopping young and old working, living and playing together.