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How far has London come as An Age Friendly City?

Posted on 16/03/2015
Age friendly London report

London has become more adapted to an ageing population in the last seven years, but there is still some way to go before the city can be called ‘age friendly’, say researchers from King’s College London in a report published today.

The follow up study found that while many of the ongoing problems cannot be solved in isolation, much progress has been made.
Professor Anthea Tinker, co-author, said: ‘There are some considerable successes. The continuation of the hugely popular Freedom Pass and Oyster 60+ is welcomed by all older Londoners. Introduction of 20 mph zones by some Local Authorities has helped to slow traffic, reducing collisions, injuries and fatalities and local air pollution. ‘Countdown’ technology at traffic lights in central London and digital displays indicating when buses are due, are helpful to older people. Notable improvements in the last seven years for disabled people include more buses and Underground stations becoming wheelchair accessible and the expansion of the Dial-a-Ride service for those with severe disability.’
The report, launched today at the Successful Cities, Positive Ageing conference, stressed the persistent shortage of affordable homes for older Londoners as well as the poor quality of much housing and indicates that more diverse housing choices are necessary.
Professor Tinker said: ‘There is a need for a mix of housing sizes and tenures and options such as co-housing and home sharing could be promoted; more new homes built to Lifetime Standards are required and more specialist housing such as extra care. We recommend that Local Authorities be enabled and supported to build new social housing for rent and to use revenue to refurbish existing stock to a decent standard.’
Dr Jay Ginn, co-author, said: ‘High levels of air pollution in parts of London, the fact that a quarter of older Inner Londoners are living in poverty, substantial inequalities in health among boroughs and the decline in social care, are all serious issues to be addressed. Local Authorities need sufficient resources to maintain their local services and facilities, since these are essential for older people’s health, safety and social inclusion.’
The authors emphasise that older people are a valuable, but often unrecognised, resource to their families, to community groups and to the economy and wider society. A major recommendation made by the report is that older people should be consulted, by a variety of means, to enable their views to be taken into account.
In more detail there are specific findings:

On social, cultural and civic participation, the report found that access to facilities is often a problem as is the withdrawal of funding from some local group activities and closure of some libraries and community centres. The authors highlight the need to support volunteering, local group activities and informal care which confirm self-esteem and confidence.
The report advises that Local Authorities should keep enough revenue to maintain or re-open community centres, libraries and other cultural facilities; and to support the community and voluntary groups that engage and assist older people, seeking innovative ways to do so.
Turning to the built environment, Professor Tinker said: ‘There are several practical solutions that will immediately improve public spaces and transport. Transport for London should continue to provide shelters and seats at bus stops, where possible and should seek government funding to accelerate making all underground stations step-free and to guarantee continued full staffing of these stations; all new Crossrail stations should be made fully accessible; and Legible London signs should include information on the accessibility of routes.’
The authors identified employment as potentially crucial for older people and there is evidence of age discrimination in recruitment, retention, promotion and training.  They say there is need for more jobs for older people, especially those that are flexible and allow for caring responsibilities.
Since health inequalities indicate the potential for improving well-being, the report authors recommends that the social determinants of ill-health at all ages should be tackled. In London, this includes reducing air pollution and improving housing conditions.

To enable older people to remain in the community as long as is practical and to support informal carers, Local Authorities should restore an adequate level of home care services for older disabled people, including those with ‘moderate needs.’
Today’s conference brings together councillors, members, academics, policy makers, voluntary organisations and older people with the aim of developing initiatives that make life better for older people living in cities. Organisers hope that some of the improvements and good practice examples in the report will go some way to contributing to this.

Notes to editors

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Read the full report: An Age Friendly City – how far has London come? (pdf 1.3MB)

Professor Anthea Tinker is Professor of Social Gerontology in the Institute of Gerontology (IoG) where she has worked for over 20 years. Much of her research has been on ways of keeping older people in their own homes.  Her expertise is in Social Policy and Ethics.

Dr Jay Ginn is a Visiting Professor at King’s College London’s Institute of Gerontology. Her earlier research over 15 years at the University of Surrey explored how the pensions, health and caring circumstances of older men and women are influenced by lifecourse, marital status, class and ethnicity.

The Institute of Gerontology, King’s College London

The Institute of Gerontology at King’s, which sits within the Department of Social Science, Health & Medicine, is one of the world’s leading research centres for the study of ageing.  It is dedicated to advancing understanding of the characteristics, key influences and effects of ageing throughout the life course. In the 2014 Research Assessment Framework, Gerontology was submitted as part of the Department of Social Science, Health and Medicine for assessment as part of the Sociology category.  Where 4* represents world leading research in terms of originality, significance and rigour it achieved the highest proportion of 4* research outputs of any Sociology submission.  In addition, 100 per cent of its research impact was awarded a 4* or 3* rating, a striking testament to the Institute’s strength.

For further information about King's visit our 'King's in Brief' page.

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