By Joanna Volpe, Leeds Programme and Partnership Manager, Centre for Ageing Better, Age Friendly City Programme
If you were to draw or sew a picture of what your home town means to you, what would it look like? I recently visited a group of ladies at a weekly social event called Heydays in Leeds who were doing just that.
What struck me was that all the pictures they embroidered were of their homes, their street, where they brought their families up. To me, the sewing session illustrated clearly what’s important to people in later life – their houses, being involved in their community, and being able to be active and travel around it.
These three areas are set to be the focus of a new partnership between Leeds City Council, Leeds Older People’s Forum and the Centre for Ageing Better. The partnership will build on Leeds’s existing commitment to be an ‘Age-friendly City’ and ‘the best city to grow old’ in. Over the next five years, we want to apply evidence to make changes that lead to a better later life for older residents in Leeds, now and in the future.
We know that most people in later life want to stay in their own homes and spend more time in their homes and their neighbourhoods than any other group. To age well, those homes need to be safe, warm and close to loved ones. Centre for Ageing Better recently published evidence showing that adapting homes can improve their suitability and keep people well for longer by reducing falls and accidents. However, for the majority finding out where and how they can have their homes adapted, and whether they are entitled to support with funding those home improvements, isn’t straight forward.
Older people in Leeds have told us that they want information and advice about their housing options – an area that we plan to explore further in the New Year. We want to understand what, how and when people seek advice about where they live, and what sorts of factors motivate people to act on the information they receive.
Although the building is incredibly important, what often makes your home a place where you want to stay is your community, the things that are going on around you, and of course being able to see family and friends. But this inevitably requires travelling, perhaps to neighbouring areas for health appointments, to visit friends or take part in community activities such as the Heydays club. People in Leeds have told us this can be difficult – particularly those shorter journeys. In fact some people said it’s easier to travel out of Leeds than between areas.
That’s why one of the projects we have initiated is to look for new solutions for transport and connecting communities in Leeds. We’re really excited about this and will be reporting on our progress later in the year.
Acts of Neighbourliness
Being involved and contributing to our communities, whether through volunteering or just being neighbourly, is good for our wellbeing and an important source of confidence and purpose whatever our age. There is evidence that it can also result in an increase in the number and quality the relationships we have.
We know that many people in later life make significant contributions to their communities and we want to see more people able to access the benefits that volunteering brings.
So, part of the work we will do in Leeds this year will be to look at the opportunities over 50s have to getting involved in voluntary and community activity, what motivates them, and what are some of the barriers they might face. Using what we have learned in Leeds, we want to encourage others, such as councils, charities, and businesses – in Leeds and across the country – to provide people in later life with more opportunities and support.
For updates on this work follow @ageing_better or sign up for Centre for Ageing Better’s newsletter on their website www.ageing-better.org.uk
You can also contact Joanne Volpe who is supporting the work of the partnership at [email protected]