Councillors achieving Pride of Place

Last week the shortlist was announced by the LGiU for the Age UK Pride of Place Award. The award, which is one of the LGiU and CCLA C’llr Achievement Awards 2012, recognises a councillor who has taken the lead in championing the voices of older people in their patch and made a real commitment to improving neighbourhoods for them.

The shortlisted councillors are:

  • Councillor Sue Cooley (Manchester City Council)
  • Councillor Edward Davie (London Borough of Lambeth Council)
  • Councillor Olwen Foggin (Devon County Council)
  • Councillor Robert Johnston (Winchester City Council)
  • Councillor Howard Murray (Poynton Town Council)

Each of them, in very different ways and very different areas, has shown real commitment to listening to the views and needs of older people and then bringing about long-term change to their areas.

As I have highlighted on this blog over the last year, good neighbourhoods are key to helping older people get out and about and stay active as they get older. Things like broken pavements, street lights which don’t work, and public transport which isn’t accessible or available at all, place barriers in the way of people who want to stay active as they grow older.

The key insight of Age UK’s Pride of Place campaign is that local elected members have a pivotal role to play in bringing about neighbourhood improvements. They are the only people with both the local knowledge and the democratic accountability.

Through the campaign, nearly 200 councillors have demonstrated their commitment to improving neighbourhoods by signing up as Pride of Place advocates. 

This week we also held the first of five support sessions for these advocates. It was a lively session where we exchanged ideas and wrestled with problems such as how to provide accessible public toilets in the current financial climate and how to influence public transport providers. A recurrent theme was the importance of getting communities involved in solving their own problems.

The good news in all this is that change is possible – as the five shortlisted councillors show, improvements can happen. The award winner will be announced at a ceremony at Westminster City Council on 27 February: watch this space.

And if you are a councillor who wants to bring about improvements to your local area, why not sign up as a Pride of Place advocate now?

Find out more about Age UK’s Pride of Place campaign

Guest Blog: The Dublin Declaration – a large step in the right direction

As part of our Pride of Place campaign to promote better neighbourhoods for older people we invited Paul McGarry from Manchester City Council to write this guest blog about his experience of Age Friendly Cities.

I’ve just finished reading an article by well-known social gerontologist Prof Alan Walker who argues (and I’m paraphrasing here) that social policy, in connection with older people, has become dominated by an “individualisation of the social” at the expense of what are sometimes called ‘structural’ explanations of, and policy responses to, ageing societies.

It is a position I have some sympathy with.  Too often it seems that we – the age sector – downplay how society creates the social, economic and political circumstances in which older people create and live their lives.  The result can be the endless pursuit of ‘evidence-based’ short-term interventions, whilst feeling frustration at not being able to tackle the underlying causes of ill-health, poverty or social exclusion in older age.  And sometimes researchers appear content to describe the lives that older people live whilst falling short of setting out arguments for change.

That’s why I’m very enthusiastic about my time at the First International Conference on Age-Friendly Communities held in Dublin on 28th-30th September and which launched the ‘Dublin Declaration.  More of that later.

The conference, which was expertly organised by Anne Connolly and the Irish Ageing Well team, attracted 400 delegates from 42 countries and featured presentations from leading European ageing researchers such as Chris Phillipson, Tom Scharf, Jenny de Jong Gierveld and Sheila Peace as well as planners, designers and political figures from across the globe.  It was also an opportunity to hear the latest from innovative programmes grouped around the WHO Global Network of Age-Friendly cities such as New York and Lyon as well as those from the emerging economies.

I shared a platform with Grace Chan who leads an inspirational project in Hong Kong, setting out Manchester’s vision and describing some of the work we’ve done since 2003.  A well-stocked information stall was well received by delegates and Councillor Sue Cooley, Manchester Older People’s Champion, signed the Dublin Declaration on Age Friendly Cities and Communities on behalf of Manchester.

The Declaration builds on the work done by the World Health Organisation’s age-friendly environments programme.  It is a tightly argued two page document which sets out nine propositions relating to ageing in the C21st and commits signees to short-term action and longer-term objectives.  You can find it here.

I am a member of a small group that is now charged with developing a roadmap for the next phase of this work.  In the UK a number of partners are focusing their work on this agenda through a working group of the Age Action Alliance as a step towards establishing a UK wide network of cities.

My view is that in these difficult days the Declaration and the international movement attached to it offer an excellent opportunity to tackle some of the tough structural challenges we face.   I would encourage all local authorities, other agencies and in particular public health teams to endorse the Declaration and join the movement to create places, which as we say in Manchester, are “great to grow old”.

Paul McGarry, Senior Strategy Manager, Valuing Older People, Public Health Manchester

Find out more about our Pride of Place campaign

Do you know a councillor who deserves an award?

Recent research for Age UK showed that more than half of people over the age of 60 say they have never had contact with their local councillor. Yet despite this lack of contact, nearly twice as many over 60s can name their councillor as can younger people, and when they do have contact, older people are more likely to be satisfied with the outcome.

Councillors have a vital role to play in local life, and can make a big difference. That’s why Age UK is working with LGiU and CCLA to sponsor the Age UK Pride of Place award  as part of the 2012 LGiU and CCLA C’llr Achievement Awards. The award will be given to a councillor who champions the voices of older people in their ward or division and makes a real commitment to improving neighbourhoods for them.

Broken pavements, street lights which don’t work, the need for more seating, the perennial problem of poor public  transport, these are all ‘bread and butter’ issues for most councillors. They are also key issues for older people.

Age UK’s Pride of Place report, shows how relatively low cost improvements to neighbourhoods can enable older people to go on getting out and about and being active for longer. Continue reading “Do you know a councillor who deserves an award?”