Council chiefs have signed up to an ambitious pledge to make Leeds the best place in the country for older people to live, work and visit.
The city has officially been included in the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Global Network of Age-friendly Cities and Communities, taking its place alongside 33 cities in 22 countries across the globe, with just seven of those in the UK.
And today the council issued a rallying cry to local businesses, groups and individuals, challenging them do their bit to make sure Leeds is a place where older residents can play an active role in their community both now and in the future.
Councillor Adam Ogilvie, Leeds City Council’s executive member for adult social care, said:
“We already have an incredible network of projects, groups and organisations working across Leeds to support older people, and they are the perfect foundation to build on.
“Older people have a lifetime of knowledge and experience to contribute to our city and thanks to the work of our neighbourhood networks and other voluntary and community projects, thousands of them are already proving they can play an active role in their local communities.
“This puts us in a strong position- but becoming the country’s most age-friendly city isn’t something we as a council can accomplish alone.
“We need everyone to play their part by helping us to break down the barriers that older people face and making sure they don’t have to sit on the sidelines.
“If we all work together to open up more opportunities to our older residents, not only can we prevent them becoming isolated, we can proudly say that we are a global standard-bearer for bridging the generation gap and hopefully inspire other cities to follow our example.”
Cities signing up to be part of the WHO’s network are given a checklist of essential features which they can use to chart their progress towards becoming age-friendly.
Key criteria on the list include accessible public transport, opportunities to socialise and a good range of health and community support services.
Other important elements are high quality parks and green spaces, affordable housing and making sure older people have access to advice and information.
The self-assessment is currently taking place in Leeds through the council and partners, who will identify any areas that need improvement.
It is hoped that by encouraging more organisations to assess themselves, the Age-friendly Leeds project will complement ongoing work already being led by the council.
The council, along with Leeds Older People’s Forum, is currently waiting to hear if a bid for £6m of Big Lottery funding to tackle social isolation over the next six years has been successful.
Work is also ongoing to develop dementia-friendly communities across the city in Rothwell, Otley, Middleton, Chapel Allerton, Beeston and Holbeck.
Leeds’s 37 council-funded neighbourhood networks, which support more than 21,900 older people across the city, recently won national praise in a report by the Institute for Public Policy Research and were highlighted as example of good practice which should be replicated nationally.
A number of the neighbourhood networks have also engaged community connectors from their local areas, who are helping people to pass on their skills and knowledge to older residents through a new scheme which is part of the Seniors
Network Support (SeNS) project.
Mick Ward, Leeds City Council’s head of commissioning for adult social care said existing projects would be the perfect springboard for the city’s future efforts to be more age-friendly.
He said: “These projects and others like them are already having a profound impact on improving and enriching the lives of thousands of older people in Leeds.
“But with an estimated 30,855 people in Leeds aged over 65 expected to be living alone by 2020, the demand for support is only going to increase, which will make the work they do more important than ever.
“If Leeds is truly to be an age-friendly city, it will take a co-ordinated effort involving the public, private and voluntary sectors to make it happen.
“We have an unprecedented opportunity to ensure that Leeds is recognised around the world as a place that older people can enjoy both now and in the future, and it is one we should all work together to make the most of.”
Organisations who want to find out more about how they can become take part in the assessment and help make Leeds more age-friendly can contact:
Head of Commissioning
Adult Social Care
Leeds City Council
Tel. 0113 24 74567
Mob. 0789 127 4893
Consultant in Public Health
Older people and Long Term Condtions
ENE area/Leeds North CCG
Office of the DPH
Leeds City Council
For media enquiries, contact:
Leeds City Council
Tel: 0113 224 3937