New film explores how cities can meet the needs of older people to become more age-friendly

What does Age-Friendly mean? Older people share their insights on this important question in a new film by University of Manchester researchers.

The Ageing in Place research project, led by Professor Tine Buffel , Dr Patty Doran and Dr Sophie Yarker , launched a new film which explores how cities can adapt to meet the needs of a growing and increasingly diverse ageing population to become more age-friendly.

Throughout the film the key message is clear that, across all cities, older people have stories to tell and experiences to share and suggests that to make cities great places to age the voices of older people must be central.

Since 2020, for the first time in history, the number of people aged sixty and over outnumbered children younger than five years old. This disparity is expected to increase significantly by 2030 when one in six will be aged sixty and over. At the same time, the world is increasingly urban with more than 55% of the global population living in cities.

With the simultaneous demographic change and deepening urbanisation predicted cities must move quickly to put in place the resources and infrastructure an ageing population needs.

According to the World Health Organization ’Age-friendly cities aspire to be places where people of all’ages feel involved, valued, and supported with infrastructure and services that meet their preferences, needs and aspirations.’ However, age-friendly will mean different things to different people, and it will require different approaches and priorities in different cities.

As part of the Ageing in Place project, older people from multiple cities including Akita, Bilbao, Brno, Brussels, Manchester, Oslo, and Québec were asked what ’age-friendly’ meant to them. Drawing on the voices of city residents, volunteers at community centres, members of older people boards and participants in age-friendly services the film engages with a diverse range of opinions and levels of involvement in age-friendly cities and communities.

In the film, we hear older people offering an insight into the transition into retirement and older age, the desire to be useful and take part in activities, and the need for services that meet their needs. We also hear about the changing urban environment and the impact this has on ageing in cities.

Commenting on the film, Dr Patty Doran said:

The film shows only snap shots of the rich conversations we have had with a wide range of older people across the seven cities of the "Ageing in Place" project. What we are learning is that older people value being able to participate in, and contribute to, their communities. As put by Bente in Oslo, "it is nice to have something to do", but what enables this is the spaces, the community centres, and the service providers and volunteers who run them, many of whom are older people themselves.

Across the cities there are many positive stories and people are proud of the progress that is being made towards creating "age-friendly" environments. But there is also an awareness that more can still be done to support the diversity of the older population and to ensure that services remain sustainable and accessible as the number of older people in our communities continues to grow.

The project relied on collaborations with several key stakeholders across the seven cities, including officers from local councils, community and private sector organisations, researchers from a range of institutions and older residents in the cities.

The film is available to watch online and you can learn more about the project here.