Bristol Ageing Better has been working with the City Council and partners to get Bristol recognised as an Age Friendly City by the World Health Organisation.
To gain status as an Age Friendly City, we have been building up an action plan that will demonstrate what Bristol is currently doing as a city to help older people, and also what needs to change in the city to make it even better for older people in the future.
This strategic document is in its draft stages and we invited organisations in Bristol as well as Bristol residents to attend the event ‘Age Friendly Check In: Give Us Your Input’ and give their thoughts before we submit it to the World Health Organisation.
Lots of input was given and here are some highlights from comments we received:
There was a lot of conversation around older people who struggle to get around the city as well as the large number of people who want more cycle routes as there are people who struggle with bicycles on the pavements. Discussion also centred on cars and how drivers could be more respectful of pedestrians as well as the changes that could be made to buses. Our plans need to take into account all of these issues and we will look to getting the council involved to consider what could be done.
Outdoor Spaces & Buildings
People want to find ways to access the city that is obstacle free so that we can help older people feel safe when they are walking around the city. Comments were made that asked us to consider how shared spaces are used. It was suggested that an age friendly city is one where there is respect between cars, pedestrians and cyclists and this is something we need to look into further.
Respect & Social Inclusion
A number of suggestions were made with regards to how we can promote respect for older people and help them feel socially included. Community development was suggested as a way of helping improve the respect that is given to older people and the importance of intergenerational work as a way of tackling negative stereotypes around age and ageing. Also thinking about how older people are portrayed in the media can encourage positive imagery. Some people mentioned that looking into how organisations can share positive imagery of older people with one another could be a helpful step forward.
It became clear from the conversation that it was important to take into account the large proportion of older people who are unhappy in their accommodation. The levels of satisfaction stated in the Quality of Life survey are therefore misleading, and this is something we want to pay attention to. Plans should also take into account rising house prices, gentrification, the need to plan for home adaptions at an earlier stage and changing communities.
The need to pay attention to barriers such as caring responsibilities and dementia was emphasised, as well as presence of language barriers when older people are accessing activities. There was also conversation around community groups and activity providers and the importance that they engage with different groups of older people in order to be as inclusive as possible and increase awareness about the activities they put on. Focusing on, for example, on different BAME communities, those with dementia, hearing difficulties and those who are most isolated.
Communication & Information
When looking at this domain it is important to understand that people might not be actively online even though they have access to the internet. Other barriers to communication were also spoken about such as language barriers, being deaf or having a visual impairment. Some mentioned the importance that word of mouth and noticeboards in shops can play. These are things that we would want to reflect in our plans going forward.
Community Support & Health Services
Issues were raised in particular with regards to GP practices. Older people would like to have continuity of care and would prefer to see the same doctor each time they visit. Transport can also become a barrier when it comes to accessing GP appointments. It’s also important to recognise that people’s access to community support and health services will be affected by the type of accommodation they live in. Also acknowledging barriers such as language barriers and not knowing what services are available if you don’t use technology are issues that need to be addressed. Furthermore, recognising that an individual’s wellbeing and mental health are directly connected to the strain that is put on the health service, and addressing these needs first would be a helpful preventative measure.
Civic Participation & Employment
When discussing volunteering among older people and how this can be encouraged there was a call for more help in finding out about what volunteering opportunities are available. Some spoke about the need for volunteering work to be more appreciated if older people are to be encouraged to volunteer more. With regards to employment, it was commented that promoting age diversity in the work place would be a good move forward. Even though more older people are staying on at work rather than retiring, according to the ‘Managing an age-diverse workforce’ report written by CIPD there are three times as many unemployed older workers as there are young people not in education, employment or training. This is a huge pool of untapped potential talent. Faith based participation and the vast networks that churches have was also mentioned as an element that contributes to encouraging civic participation among older people.
As part of the application to the World Health Organisation, we must develop opportunities for older people to be involved in the work and have a mechanism to keep the action plan progressing over the years. We are working with partners including Bristol Council to develop an age friendly board that includes older people as well as representatives from different sectors. To encourage more age friendly actions, we plan to establish Age Friendly Action Groups around each of the domains. This will be a group of individuals who are committed to achieving the age friendly actions that have been developed around each domain.
If you would be interested in joining an Age Friendly Action Group or would like to find out more about the action groups please contact Vivienne Watson on firstname.lastname@example.org