Developing a strategy for age-friendly Greater Manchester

Older people are key users of our high streets. This 2017 report from Chris Phillipson outlines a strategy for Greater Manchester to reach its ambition to be the first 'age-friendly’ region in the UK. Based on in-depth research, it sets out a series of recommendations to enable this to happen. Although the research focuses on Greater Manchester, other places could take inspiration from this resource for creating high streets and town centres which better meet the needs of older people.

Date added 17 August 2021
Last updated 17 August 2021

*This resource is about age-friendly neighbourhoods. It is not specifically about the High Street, but has been included in response to requests for more studies/information about this topic, as well as linking to the vision and liveability priorities for High Street vitality and viability*

The UK population is growing and also becoming older, and older people are key users of our high streets. This report outlines a strategy for Greater Manchester to reach its ambition to be the first 'age-friendly’ region in the UK. It is based on research which aimed "to develop policy recommendations and priorities for action to assist the development of an age-friendly Greater Manchester" (p.3). The study involved discussions with policy-makers across Greater Manchester; focus groups with older people, BAME groups, health, housing, and social care managers; and analysis of national, regional and local policy documents.

The report begins by explaining how the issue of developing age-friendly communities arose from a number of policy initiatives launched by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in the 1990s and early 2000s, which highlighted the idea of ‘active ageing'. And has continued to gain momentum, through the WHO’s Global Age-Friendly Cities Project launched in 2006, and the resultant Global Network of Age-Friendly Cities and Communities, launched in 2010.

Eight key themes drawn from policy, practice, and the research are then identified, and explained in the context of Greater Manchester and age-friendly communities: (1) Developing a regional policy on age-friendly issues; (2) Promoting age-friendly programmes as a framework for social inclusion; (3) Demographic change and age-friendly environments; (4) Developing age-friendly neighbourhoods; (5) Developing GM as an age-friendly region for Black and Minority Ethnic Groups; (6) Promoting good quality housing as the key to age-friendly communities; (7) Developing an age-friendly employment policy; and (8) Promoting an age-friendly environment in Greater Manchester.

Regarding the creation of age-friendly communities, which could also apply to ensuring high streets and town centres are designed for the needs of older people, the author argues the following four principles are important (p. 9):

  1. They should provide a mechanism for empowering older people and ensuring social participation.
  2. They should seek to preserve social diversity within communities, encouraging a mix of generational groups wherever possible.
  3. They should promote integration between the physical and social dimensions of the environment.
  4. They should promote collaboration across a broad range of stakeholders, including older people themselves.

In order to achieve the above, the following recommendations are proposed:

  • Design neighbourhoods so it is easy for people to enjoy the outdoors, and access natural and greenspaces, to promote health and wellbeing of communities.
  • Remove any barriers to mobility within neighbourhoods to promote better accessibility and walkability of places for older people.
  • Communities should be easily connected to transport, services and amenities in order to promote independence and wellbeing.
  • Ensure neighbourhoods are secure and offer opportunities for social connections to be formed, for instance through befriending schemes and spaces like libraries.

The report concludes by projecting three future scenarios for Greater Manchester, 2017-2030:

  1. Incremental change: Age-friendly environments (steady growth of the age-friendly model)
  2. Decline: Unequal communities (decline in age-friendly communities)
  3. Transformative: Active caring and learning communities (age-friendly model developed and transformed in a variety of ways).