Living Streets contributed their expertise to our 2030 Vision consultationand your responses confirmed that neighbourhoods are very important to older people. But how do we make them more people-friendly?
Sam Coates, Supporter & Mobilisation Coordinator at Living Streets, gives his thoughts on this issue and urges people help take an age-friendly step towards making the UK the best country to grow older in.
Our independence, the freedom to go to the shops or to see friends and family, is something most of us take for granted. And walking is a huge part of that, connecting us to our local communities and giving us a sense of place. But as we age, the quality of the environment where we live starts to matter more.
The way our streets are designed also matters. For many older people, cars parked on pavements, speeding traffic and signals that don’t give people enough time to cross the road prevent people from getting out and about.
Take Shelia, who is 80 and lives with her dog Jack and two cats. She has cataracts so her vision is blurred and she lives between a triangle of main roads. There is no access for pedestrians to cross the main roads, so she and Jack are effectively stuck.
Another person we spoke to, Maureen, has timed the road crossing near her home at seven seconds, which doesn’t give her time to get to the other side. She says: “I’m quite a resilient person and will go out in any weather, but even to me it can feel like running a marathon. For some of the more vulnerable people in the village the traffic can be so threatening that I think it’s a real effort, even for essential things like a doctor’s appointment and for something like a social event at the parish hall, they probably won’t bother.”
We know that isolation and loneliness are a growing problem for some older people, and there’s an ever-growing body of research showing walking can prolong life, fight the onset of dementia and improve health.
So in 2015 Living Streets is supporting older people to reclaim their streets, to make walking safer and easier for everyone. We want the next government to act by introducing a new law, called an Active Travel Bill. You can get involved by asking your MP what they will do for older pedestrians in 2015, and urging them to back an Active Travel Bill for their party’s manifesto here.
Find out more about Living Streets and our campaigns on our website.