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You know what they say “if you don’t use it, you’ll lose it”. It’s especially true of mobility. As we get older we slow down and all too often spend a lot of time sitting down. Advice from the Chief Medical Office [1] (CMO) recommends that adults – including those of us over the age of 65 – should aim to be active daily. Over a week, this should add up to at least 150 minutes (2½ hours) of moderate intensity activity in bouts of 10 minutes or more. This is the same as taking a brisk walk for 30 minutes at least 5 days a week.

Being active and feeling confident walking around your local neighbourhood is an important part of leading an active, fulfilling and independent life including being able to go to the doctor’s surgery, library, post office, pub, shops or to meet up with friends. Walking is great for our health, it’s sociable and it’s free. But, here’s the rub, too many of our streets aren’t fit for walking for our most vulnerable pedestrians.

Living Streets has been campaigning for pedestrians since 1929. Through our work, older people tell us about uneven or cracked paving slabs, overhanging tree branches, street clutter, dropped kerbs, cars parked on pavements or people cycling on pavements. At the very least these are an inconvenience, at worst they are accidents waiting to happen. Our footways and public spaces should be safe, attractive, clean, well maintained and uncluttered, with well positioned seating and public toilets.

Our streets should be for everybody, but cars and traffic divide communities. As people’s eyesight, hearing and physical agility deteriorate with age it can become more difficult to walk around. If you can’t see so well, traffic speeds are hard to guess which is one reason why we campaign for 20 mph limits. Signalised pedestrian crossings don’t allow enough time for older people to cross the road safely! Living Streets’ Give us Time to Cross campaign is calling for an extra 3 seconds to cross the road.

Of course, we can’t control the weather, but icy pavements in winter can keep older people isolated indoors worried about slipping or falling. While gritting lorries are mobilised to clear road and keep traffic moving, clearing pavements is often seen as a low priority. The good news is that we can help each other. Almost 7000 people signed up to our Snow Angel campaign promising to help keep their neighbours on their feet.

[1] Factsheet 4, Physical activity guidelines for adults (19-64 years)

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