You Really Do Become Invisible": Examining Older Adults' Rights to Urban Environments in the UK
Ryan Woolrych (Heriot Watt University)
An aging population presents new challenges to designing urban environments that support and promote everyday engagement and healthy living for older adults. Existing urban environments often support a form of ‘architectural disability’ where the design of buildings and places create conditions for the social isolation, dependency and exclusion of older adults. The World Health Organisation’s Global Age Friendly Cities movement and associated guidelines have identified the need to design cities and communities that optimise opportunities for health, participation and security in order to enhance quality of life as people age. Ensuring that age friendly urban environments create opportunities for active ageing require cities and communities that support the rights to access and move around the city and be actively involved in the making and re-making of the city. These initiatives raise important questions – What are older adults experiences of participating in the city? What are the challenges and opportunities in supporting older adults rights to the city? What more can be done in the design and delivery of age-friendly cities to support active ageing? Our current ESRC funded study on ‘Place-making with Older People: Towards Age Friendly Communities’ 2016-19 (www.placeage.org) attempts to answer these questions by understanding the lived experiences of older adults across different urban areas. Drawing on qualitative data (semi-structured interviews, walking interviews, photo diaries, knowledge cafés and community mapping workshops) collected in three cities (Glasgow, Edinburgh and Manchester) across nine neighbourhoods in the UK we present key themes emerging from the data which speak to older adults’ rights to urban environments: mobility and access, social participation, safety and security and involvement in decision-making. Through the accounts of older adults’ we will offer potential recommendations for supporting ageing-in-place that reflects a rights based approach to age-friendly cities.