BLOG: Cllr Gerard Woodhouse on being an age friendly city
Councillor Gerard Woodhouse, Mayoral Lead for Older People discusses Age Friendly Cities to mark the UN International Day for Older Persons
In Liverpool we rightly have the reputation of looking out for the most vulnerable, of being friendly and generous as the recent “With Love from Liverpool” concert showed. However, despite our best efforts older people in our city and across the country are still facing the challenges of social isolation, declining health, inadequate housing, reduced employment opportunities and financial pressures. In my own ward I have seen how these can be detrimental not only to the individual, but also the whole community. Many families are caring for their elderly relative without the support they need, older people are lonely and isolated or unable to be independent due to restrictions of transport and mobility.
Also, as revealed in the 2014 report from the Mayoral Commission on Health Liverpool is behind other parts of the country in terms of incidence of disease, particularly older age illnesses and still has one of the lowest life expectancies in England.
The Mayor pledged to make Liverpool an “Age Friendly City” as he recognised that older people bring a valuable contribution to our city and we must address the challenges they face in these austere times.
Since I was appointed in 2012 we have set up activities across the city to develop community cohesion and alleviate social isolation, from “knit and natter” groups to cabaret afternoons. We are working with registered social landlords to improve housing and action groups to target fuel poverty. We recently hosted the Older Person’s Awards where contributions where recognised and applauded. Christmas activities such as Christmas lunches and hampers are being prepared for this year.
However, more still needs to be done. We have a collective responsibility as individuals and in our communities to recognise that by enabling and supporting our older residents we can benefit from the experience and the contributions they can offer. We must present opportunities for our older residents to assist each other and be active in their communities. Public, private and voluntary sectors need to be engaged to improve accessibility of their services either physically or digitally.
This is why Liverpool’s vision is to join other UK cities in gaining Age Friendly accreditation from the World Health Organisation who describe an age friendly city as ‘a city that allows people to stay active, connected and positively contribute to economic, social, and cultural life in their community long into their old age.’
An age friendly city is a multi-generational friendly city. A city with strong, safe communities so no-one feels isolated. An active, healthy city where the life expectancy exceeds the national average. A city that is digitally connected. A city that is accessible for all.
The vision is to make this a city of choice for all generations – a great place to live and grow old in. Liverpool really can become a city for all ages.