A place for me? Older people and the future Northampton town centre

This research report focuses on how town centres can improve how older people experience town centres, using Northampton town centre as a case study. The case study presents results from participatory research methods aiming to understand what is important to people aged 65+ in Northampton.

Date added 17 August 2021
Last updated 17 August 2021

This research report focuses on how town centres can improve how older people experience town centres, using Northampton town centre as a case study. As an aging population is a challenge for many town centres, the case study presents results from participatory research methods aiming to understand what is important to people aged 65+ in Northampton. It also looks to make older feel more valued and connected to their place. Data were collected from nine Northampton residents through interviews and taking photographs whilst walking around the town centre (a ‘Snap and Chat’ interview), focus groups, and individual face to face interviews.

Participants spoke fondly about the history of Northampton town centre and about what they missed as this gave them great sense of identity. The report highlights that regeneration of places can often remove place specific characteristics that prompt memories and therefore, older people can feel more disconnected. Similarly, there was a lost sense of belonging amongst the participants as they had experienced that the markets and retailers they were familiar with had disappeared or did no longer cater sufficiently for their age group. Participants also felt that the town centre lacked cleanliness and was dominated by a rundown appearance. This made them feel less welcome in the town centre.

The report continues to reflect on the idea of active aging where older people actively take part in developing age friendly town centres as participants did indeed come to the town centres for other purposes than shopping. However, participants discussed that accessibility was often an issue and that walking or using mobility scooters could be difficult in parts of the centre as raised edges and poor repairs etc. impacted on their ability to navigate pathways and pavements. This also impacted on their sense of safety in the town centre as they may be vulnerable to tripping and falling. This was also the case for the bus stop as waiting in the external stops is weather dependent and could impact on the welfare of older people.

The report concludes that older people are crucial to the future plans of Northampton due to the aging population and that they should be an inclusive part of the decision-making processes for regenerating the town centre.