Hello, and welcome to October’s Blog. This month I wanted to choose the topic of Age Friendly in light of International Older Persons Day which we celebrated this week. This year's theme asks us to reflect on best practices, lessons and progress on the journey to ending older age inequalities and changing negative narratives and stereotypes involving "old age."
‘Age Friendly’ is a term we are hearing more and more in Manchester and worldwide - and for good reason. The number of people aged 60 and over, as a proportion of the world's population, will double by 2050 (bear in mind that by then this will include many of us!). There will be more older people than children in the population for the first time in history.
We need to be readying our communities for this today by creating age-friendly places and empowering people to live fulfilling lives as we age.
Age Friendly Manchester
In the UK, Manchester is pioneering this; in 2017 we were defined by the World Health Organisation as the country’s first age-friendly city. A big part of this is due to Greater Manchester’s now 10-year-old Age Friendly Strategy and accompanying £10.2 million ‘Ambition for Ageing’ programme, which I am proud that Southway has many links with. The programme is responsible for hundreds of projects and initiatives improving the lives of older people across Manchester today (some of which I will expand on later).
More locally, Andy Burnham’s ‘Mayor’s Age Friendly Challenge’ was launched this year to highlight the neighbourhoods making Greater Manchester the best place in the UK to grow older. We were delighted that our own neighbourhoods Old Moat and Burnage were amongst those recognised, reflecting the brilliant work by and for older people taking place here.
This emphasis on communities and quality neighbourhoods, which is central to Southway's vision, is credited to Manchester's UK-leading age friendly title. Professor Chris Philipson of the Manchester Institute for Collaborative Research Ageing says:
“We know that people aged 70 and older spend about 80% of their time in their immediate neighbourhood. Improving the quality of conditions and life in neighbourhoods is therefore fundamental to making sure that people have a good old age. Led by this knowledge, Manchester has been particularly active in trying to improve the quality of neighbourhoods, outdoor spaces and environments."
Age Friendly Southway
There is much to be celebrated in our city; I also wanted to take this opportunity to reflect on some of the ways that this strategy, funding and work benefits Southway’s communities and residents day to day. You can follow the links below to find out more and get involved with any of these groups and projects:
Southway’s Age Friendly Strategy
Our Age Friendly Strategy, which was first introduced in 2012 and renewed in March 2017, aims to make Southway, our services and our neighbourhoods more suitable to the practical, social and emotional needs of our older tenants and residents.
The Strategy includes a range of work and projects to deliver the following objectives:
- Improve the quality of life of our older residents
- Create Lifetime Neighbourhoods
- Deliver services that are Age Friendly
- Ensure that existing housing enables independent living
- Build new homes for older people
- Be an Age Friendly employer
Another important aspect of the Age-Friendly strategy is reducing loneliness and isolation. To address this area in particular, we work in partnership with GMCVO and Manchester Age-Friendly Neighbourhoods (Manchester School of Architects) to deliver the Ambition for Ageing Programme. The programme has implemented £90,000 worth of test and learn projects ranging from card making to setting up a mix-gender Bowling Club. Projects are approved by a resident-led board, who work alongside local stakeholders including councillors, NHS and local religious groups.
The Old Moat Age-Friendly Neighbourhood Project
In 2012 Southway commissioned a project to investigate whether Old Moat was “Age-Friendly”, applying a World Health Organisation (WHO) developed research model at a local level for the first time. Old Moat was selected as pilot as it has a significant number of older tenants who live on low incomes, suffer from a limiting illness or disability and have a lower life expectancy than the Manchester average.
This was a new and innovative way of understanding and achieving age friendly living. The learning from this project underpins our approach across all neighbourhoods. Our approach is also complementary to the aims and objectives of the Housing for an Age Friendly Manchester Strategy, adopted in early 2015 by Manchester City Council, housing providers and health partners.
Take a Seat
The hugely successful "Take a Seat" initiative aims to partner with local shops and businesses so that those partners can provide a clear and friendly place for older people to take a break whilst they are out and about in their community. This allows for a more pleasant, accessible experience and creates a more open and friendly community for older people to enjoy, reducing isolation.
Due to the success of the campaign we have now expanded this scheme beyond south Manchester and partnered with other local authorities as well as the City Council, in order to help improve accessibility of local shopping areas and neighbourhoods.
Men in Sheds
South Manchester Men in Sheds was originally set up to bring people together in an effort to reduce isolation and loneliness. Since its launch in February 2018, this project has gone from strength to strength, with its membership growing from 4 to well over 60 in under two years. The group meet three times a week and deliver do-it-yourself workshops in joinery, electrics and bike mending. They also allow time to complete jobs for people in the community or larger jobs for organisations like Manchester City Council. The workshops also provide a safe space where men can talk openly about their experiences and any worries they have, an opportunity they may not have had previously.
At the beginning of the year, Men in Sheds welcomed their first female members to the group, allowing the project to grow and develop further. We were also delighted with the recent news that Men in Sheds was nominated for a Be Proud Award, which is highly deserved.
In collaboration with Ambition for Ageing and with funding from The National Lottery, we run a variety of Social Eating events for our older residents. Social Eating combines preparing and/or enjoying food with a fun activity, to create opportunities for older people to make new friends, learn new skills and engage in fun activities.
Recent events have included Bowl & Plate sessions in Gorton, where older residents enjoy a game of boules and lunch together, and inter-generational harvests, in which members of Ambition for Ageing work with school-age children to plant, grow and cook their own food. Peer Support Network
Our Peer Support Networks provide an opportunity for older residents to have their say on matters that are important to them. They are run both for and by older residents of the area, and volunteers take part in a Community Organiser Training courses to help develop their skills and confidence.
Recently we obtained funding from Comic Relief to develop a further Peer Support Network for older people in Chorlton Park/Chorlton, replicating the successful established Network in the Old Moat area.
Our research shows that men over 65 find it more difficult to make friends later in life. There is a tendency in this group to associate the idea of admitting loneliness, or lack of friends, with the stigmatisation of reduced masculinity, and as a result, they may not actively seek support.
Therefore with the help of our older residents and community partners we launched a service focussed on older men (over 65) who are isolated from local services, support networks and their community. It aims, by way of trained volunteers, to discover the needs of individuals and put them in touch with local support such as community or social groups. It encourages and supports older men to meet likeminded people, become more active, revisit old hobbies, volunteer, or learn new skills. The service looks to community partners such as GPs, health professionals, social workers, housing providers and other community touch points, to make referrals.
Upcoming Activities and Events
I hope this information has been interesting and useful for you, whether from a strategic point of view as someone working in this area, or if perhaps you are an older person looking to find out more about services or support available to you.
If you are in the latter group, I would like close by highlighting some of your local upcoming Age Friendly events and activities at the bottom of this page. Attending them can be a great way to introduce yourself to a welcoming network of older residents and partners which, as a result of the city-wide Age Friendly Programme, is continuously growing!
I welcome your feedback
If you have any thoughts on this blog, be it an idea for a further Age Friendly project or event, comments on the current programme, or subjects for future blogs, please get in touch below – I would love to hear from you.