Our Thoughts: GM Ageing Hub Conference 2019

28 February 2019

Wednesday 13 February saw the 2019 Greater Manchester Age Friendly Conference: Doing Ageing Differently take place in the heart of the Manchester. Organised by the GM Ageing Hub, which was formed in 2016, the event proved to be a sell-out.

As participants in the GM Ageing Hub’s Housing and Planning Task Group, Pozzoni was in attendance, represented by Directors Nigel Saunders and Damian Utton, who were amongst the 300 delegates that took part on the day. Other attendees included representatives from the GM Combined Authority, local councils, the Centre for Ageing Better, regional universities and housing providers, along with several international bodies.

Nigel and Damian both found the day to be stimulating and informative, and they have shared their insights on the key takeaways from the day.

The opening address was delivered by Andy Burnham, the Mayor of Greater Manchester. He stressed that the time has come to think differently about developing towns and cities that support our ageing population and observed that many older people want to reside in our towns and cities - where the action is! Much to our delight, Mr Burnham demonstrated his point by mentioning Pozzoni’s Stalybridge apartment project (for New Charter Housing) which is currently occupied by a number of people over the age of 70, not just young people.

Mr Burnham went on to conclude that, at present, there is an exciting opportunity to pioneer new thinking and called out to the industry to drive forward Manchester as the UK’s most age friendly city region.

The Mayor’s thoughts were echoed by other speakers, including Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council’s Pam Smith. SMBC’s Chief Executive took the opportunity to discuss a major initiative to ensure Stockport town centre provides age-friendly environment and homes. She explained that more and more older people are looking for ‘funky’ flats in the town centre, with some now choosing to rent rather than to buy.

Throughout the day, there were several thought-provoking points raised. A common and encouraging message was that Manchester is regarded internationally as a pioneering age-friendly city. An impressive feat that has been achieved through: challenging ageism, encouraging collaboration, interventions at neighbourhood level and participation of older people.

Another Pozzoni designed scheme, Village 135, was referenced at the conference as a leading development for older people. The need for designers to take inspiration from ‘urban ageing’ models from Europe, to engage with older people and to design homes that are adaptable as people age was also explored.

According to sources on the day, Greater Manchester needs to deliver 15,000 specialist homes by 2033, with mixed tenures needed (i.e. sale, rent and shared equity).

The event also included ‘break-out’ sessions which focused on a variety of different matters. These included:

• Addressing inequality and exclusivity in developing age-friendly cities (especially with regard to BAME communities)

• Representatives from the cities of Oslo and Amsterdam, who explained their approach to becoming age-friendly cities. (For example, simple actions such as providing plenty of appropriately designed seating benches around a city can make a huge difference.)

• Supporting and facilitating the opportunities for older people to be more physically active and the positive effect this can have on health

• Green infrastructure in cities that provides opportunities for fresh air, sunlight, activity, socialising and memories

Overall, there was much to take away from the day and it is clear that when it comes to senior living, Greater Manchester is a region of great ambition and opportunity.