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Intergenerational Age-Friendly Cities and Communities

  1. INTERGENERATIONAL AGE-FRIENDLY CITIES AND COMMUNITIES Ryan Woolrych Director of the Urban Institute Professor in Ageing and Urban Studies
  2. HEALTHY AGEING AND URBANISATION • By 2030 two-thirds of the population will be living in cities. At least a quarter of those urban populations will be aged 60 plus. • Urban environments have the potential to be sites to support active and healthy ageing yet can also create barriers to participation and engagement. • Urban penalty vs health dividend. • Marmot review (2010, 2023) – place matters. Spatial and social inequalities across urban environments – and in the ageing process. • A key component of healthy, active and liveable societies for older people lies in robust intergenerational relationships (Kaplan et al, 2017).
  3. AGE FRIENDLY CITIES AND COMMUNITIES • The WHO (2007) Age Friendly Cities movement/programme recognises cities that support active ageing by optimizing opportunities for health, participation and security in order to enhance quality of life as people age. • BUT • Operationalisation of guidelines at local level is patchy. • Understanding what ageing-in-the-right- place means for older adults across different social, cultural and welfare contexts needs attention.
  4. ‘PLACE-MAKING WITH OLDER PEOPLE: TOWARDS AGE FRIENDLY COMMUNITIES’: PLACEAGE Three core aims: (i) to investigate how sense of place is experienced by older people from different social settings living in diverse neighbourhoods in the UK, India and Brazil; (ii) to translate these experiences into designs for age friendly communities that support sense of place; and (iii) to better articulate the role of older adults as active placemakers in the design process by involving the community at all stages of the research.
  5. THE CITIES India (Delhi, Kolkata, Hyderabad) Brazil (Belo Horizonte, Brasilia, Pelotas) UK (Glasgow, Edinburgh, Manchester) Total of 27 neighbourhoods – topography, urban development, income, demography Phase 1 – Capturing Sense of Place – 292 semi-structured interviews; 181 go along interviews; 94 photo diaries. Age range 51-94. Mean age 71. Phase 2 – Mapping Sense of Place. Knowledge cafes and mapping workshops (n=54) (over 450 older adults/230 professionals) Phase 3 – Designing for Sense of Place – guidelines and recommendations for AFC (further policy and practice workshops)
  6. URBAN TRANSFORMATIONS – INTERGENERATIONAL CITIES AND COMMUNITIES • Rapidly changing urban contexts across all countries – more rapid expansion in Indian and Brazilian cities is challenging older people’s relationship to place. • Story of eroding communities in many of our UK neighbourhoods particularly social housing estates e.g. Baguley in Manchester and Easterhouse in Glasgow leaving a lack of IG supports. • Narrative of ‘estrangement’ from community for many – loss. Becoming ‘peripheral’ to the ways in which cities and communities are being shaped. Mastery of the BE. • Inequalities in urban development – some benefitting and others not. ‘City not for us’. Being ‘designed out’ but not just an older person issue. • City growth – the perceived ‘unproductive’ older people not synonymous with city ‘as economic powerhouse’. • Opportunities for reinventing a sense of self in old age - ‘reimagining the city as an intergenerational space’. Rather than one framed as old OR young.
  7. The population of this area is increasing rapidly and everything around is changing dramatically. We don’t have as much of that public space in the city any more. The opportunities to come together and just ‘sit’ and ‘be’ are disappearing for all age groups. How can we ensure we have those spaces to come together? The parks, the benches, the libraries, the street corners. How can we become part of the changing city? No one is against change. No one is that far apart in terms of what we want from the city. We just need the coming together to make it happen. (Male, 78, Belo Horizonte) Everyone says that this area has been gentrified. That it’s no longer the community it once was. I don’t see it that way. There are cafes, social spaces and art groups for all age groups. Out of the Blue is a great place. At any one time you can be having a coffee, painting a picture, playing music… I find it more diverse. Yes, the tram situation annoys me and the regeneration has always been an issue but I feel more connected. As long as you have these spaces, then you’re not impacted by the negative things that are going as much. (Female, 65, Leith, Edinburgh)
  8. NAVIGATING COMMUNITY • No lack of physical supports in some our communities. Indian communities – proximity as a measure of AFC/20MN scored well. • Physical and material environment presented barriers – absence of walkable communities, wayfinding (for those living with dementia), street furniture. • Navigating supports were complex – anxiety, stress and worry. (“Is it worth all the hassle?”). Advanced planning a feature of the experiences of older people. Intergenerational supports critical here. • Circuitous routes, temporary road closures, ‘second class’ access. • Connection across settings e.g. health and social care, rarely thought through. • Transport picture ‘mixed’ across all cities and communities – lack of ‘A to Z’ and back again. Intergenerational transport e.g. Tuk tuk in India – support at ‘either end’ and ‘trust’.
  9. We only get clean running water for 3 hours a day and electricity goes on and off. In the morning, we head down to the water stations to collect water. There would always be a number of us and we’d all meet there and have a chat… about whatever really, family and such like. It’s about 30 minutes walk each way. It’s getting more difficult for me now, because of coming back with the water. The girl some has been helping out and so we can walk together and I can help walk back. So it keeps me doing what I’ve always been doing. It means I can still go, still see people. (Female, 71, Delhi)
  10. I wouldn’t get out otherwise. Srinkanth has been coming to me for years. Ever since I struggled when I lost my husband. I’ve always had problems walking. There is no reliable buses around here and even if there was, you just can’t get to the bus stop safely. So shopping, going to see the doctor, seeing friends. This is door to door service. Srikanth helps me get out of the house, takes more where I need to go and also takes me back. I trust him and feel comfortable with him. Older people don’t have those supports anymore. Things are changing. Sons and daughters who would do this for us. Like I would look after my mum. That is not happening any more. My daughter moved to Hyderabad a long time ago. We still stay in contact and have telephones but doesn’t help with these kind of things. (Female, 67, Kolkata)
  11. AGEING AND SOCIAL PARTICIPATION • Social isolation – cut across all our communities regardless of income. • Religion and social participation common in India – linked to social supports/coping mechanisms/wellbeing in old age. Intergenerational connections via places of worship. • Social participation linked to material means to access supports e.g. high income areas. IG engagement often ‘beyond’ the neighbourhood. • Heterogeneity of ageing afforded little consideration. • Information and communication problematic. Older people in India feeling ‘reliant’ on younger people to navigate information. • ‘Forced’ intergenerational supports not received well – language can be stigmatising. • Linked to respect and feeling valued – assuming active roles/two ways reciprocal support/ not ‘someone just doing for me’.
  12. It’s my worst nightmare to end up sitting with a bunch of people with no interest in each other just because we’re all the same age. Why would you do that to people, just because they’re old? (Female, (Female, 68, Manchester) They don’t really have any activities there. It’s all ‘you’re older this so you need this. They look at you like you’re something different. It’s what ‘we can do for you’ rather than asking me about the skills and experience I can bring to help others. (Female, 79, Brasilia)
  13. INTERGENERATIONAL PLACES • Those where people see the purpose of being there together. Coproducing spaces/ community development. • Non-threatening, promote a sense of security and safety, and lifelong learning. • Familiarity and belonging – lot can come from aspects of the built environment but also organisation and how it’s run. • Place affordances and belonging: Churches; Schools; Cafes; Parks; Shops. Not just ‘one off’ events but how IG is ‘part and parcel of everyday living’. • Feelings of ‘being there’ - I use the parks all the time… I walk through here with my grandchildren… there is always activities going on here. (Female, 90, Didsbury) …the street life is very busy. I’m in the older age group now, I love to see young people. (Female, 71, Leith)
  14. I still interact with people of a different age… replicate the real world, the microcosm of the inner city. That’s what I want from my community. We don’t have to be in and out of others pockets but the feeling of being in the community together. All ages. (Male, 64, Partick) And through that Pilmeny Resource Centre, I’ve become part of, well, I’m on the committee for Leith Community Cinema, which is set up in Pilrig Church which is literally just over the road. […] But it’s only been going two or three years, so I was there almost from the start, and again it’s intergenerational. There are people younger than me. There’s some people older. But its part of doing something and coproducting something together…” (Female, 66, Leith)
  15. AGEING, WORK AND VOLUNTEERING • India - ‘Multiple jobs’. Retirement ‘not an option’ for many/ ‘not expected or wanted’ for others – linked to sense of purpose and engagement. • Informal economy often a source of [in]security for older people – gendered dimensions and spatial differences here. • Home ‘as a place of work’ common in India and Brazil. Making goods/social enterprises. Strong source of intergenerational connectivity through ‘home as work’ spaces. • Volunteering diverse. Yet significant number of others who ‘did not know’ how to volunteer or could not access volunteering opportunities e.g. those with mobility challenges. • Older people caring for others to fill the gaps in formal care provision – v.common across all case study cities and rewarding but also challenging/ burn out.
  16. HOUSING AND HOME • Emotional, psychological and social connection to home important… IG part of this. • Ageing in the right place important – housing options, surrounded by the social and community supports to age well, where people of different ages share time and skills. • Formal housing supports available in UK – varying quality and not in location of choice (‘rightsizing’). Distinction between ‘housing for the old and young’. • Family living much more common in India – as was family care. Yet this is increasingly being challenged. • Building IG spaces into housing interventions e.g. shared indoor and outdoor spaces ‘live, work, play’.
  17. INFLUENCING CHANGE • Given difficulties in accessing, occupying and using the city many a right to participate in urban planning & governance including the right to take an important role in decisions regarding the production of urban spaces. • Bringing together rights based agendas across generations – e.g. age-friendly and child-friendly. BUT felt • Less likely to be heard. • Powerless in design/decisions re urban spaces via tokenistic consultations. • Nothing outside the formal structures of engagement. • Collective power required to realise rights. • Little opportunity for certain groups to participate e.g. ethnic
  18. CONCLUDING REMARKS • Complexities of ageing across diverse urban, social and cultural contexts – consideration needed of how we build IG supports. • Physical and material aspects of the built environment are important in delivering IG supports – multi-functional and flexible spaces. • Bringing together voices of older and younger people. Willingness as advocates and champions. Child friendly agenda is an age-friendly agenda and vice versa. • Collaborative dialogue and knowledge exchange essential - shift in thinking to a more inclusive and user centred approach to urban planning and decision- making around IG.
  19. THANK YOU • Website • Contact: Ryan Woolrych

Editor's Notes

  1. Can be sites of innovation, creativity and change. They can also be positive environments within which to age. Urban environmets, can if designed effectively, create opportunities – outdoor spaces, transport, housing, acces to services, cultural supports. However, they can also isolate and exclude. Two related points – significant spatial inequalities within the UK in terms of where we live predicting outcomes – in Glasgow in Scotland. One side of the city to the other we can have a life expectancy swing of 30 years.
  2. Kolkata. Acupuncture urban development – bubbles of development but link spaces and communities still lacked a lot of the basics. Basic needs undermined for a lot of older people.
  3. Needing to maintain a ‘busy ethic’ common across all cities and communities – mixture of diverse activities to ‘stay active’. Political engagement/capital – bound up in the experience of older people in India.
  4. I’m a big fan of mentoring, older people to younger people…the life experience of older people that live in this community. (Female, 66, Govanhill)
  5. In the previous section, we established that accessing and using the city is an everyday struggle for older adults in the UK. These struggles inform the importance of involving older people in the planning of urban interventions and regenerations.
  6. Normative approach to human rights difficult to achieve.