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Executive Leader Cllr Brenda Warrington

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Councillor Brenda Warrington, Executive Leader of Tameside Council

Building an Age-Friendly Tameside Together

Friday, 14 February 2020

Greater Manchester is getting older. By 2041, it is estimated that over seven hundred thousand people in GM – just under a quarter of the population – will be over the age of 65. If you’re 65 today, your chances of celebrating your 85th birthday and beyond are pretty good.

At face value, more people living for longer would seem to be a good thing. Yet all too often an aging population is presented as a problem to be solved. It sometimes seems like you can’t discuss it without adding words like “time bomb” or “perfect storm”. A greater proportion of older people, we’re told, will mean less tax income and greater pressure on services such as health, social care and benefits. This isn’t a view that we share in Greater Manchester. As the Lead for Age-Friendly and Equalities for the Combined Authority, I’ve long believed that it is well past time to change the way we think and talk about our aging population. Older people can, and do, make a vital contribution to our economy and society. That isn’t a narrative, it’s a fact.

Over the past four years we have made it our priority to make Greater Manchester the best place in the UK to grow old and be old. Working closely with organisations such as the GM Ageing Hub and the Centre for Aging Better we’ve focused on the practical changes that need to be made at a local level to improve the lives of older people.

This has led a number of big successes. With a £1 million investment from Sport England we set up GM Active Ageing, encouraging older people to develop and sustain an active and healthy lifestyle. We’ve created the GM Age Friendly Conference which has allowed us to bring a number of organisations from across the UK and beyond to our city region to share best practice and build new and strong partnerships. Perhaps most significantly, in 2018 Greater Manchester was recognised by the World Health Organisation as the UK’s first age-friendly city region.

That being said, if I was to be asked to name the thing we’ve done in Greater Manchester that has made the most difference to the lives of older people, I’d point to the creation of Age-Friendly Neighbourhoods. These are local areas that have put in place changes that allow older people to live there as independently as possible for as long as possible. Instead of a top-down or “one size fits all” approach, local communities are encouraged to develop solutions tailor-made to their own areas and contexts.

In Tameside Denton South, Mottram, Hyde Newton and Ashton Waterloo have already been recognised as Age-Friendly Communities, but last week we got the great news that they have now been joined by Denton North, Dane Bank, Droylsden and Dukinfield. All four areas have displayed fine examples of older people taking the lead in their own communities. In Dukinfield, the Together Centre on Birch Lane runs animal-rescue therapy sessions for local residents with dementia and other needs. St. Malcolm’s Church in Droylsden has become a “Place of Welcome” where anybody can come in and experience a warm, friendly community space. The Denton Park Social Bowling Club in Victoria Park provides a space for older people to socialise and be active, and Dane Bank has expanded its cultural options with a community choir and cinema in Denton West End Community Library. Representatives from all four of Tameside’s new Age-Friendly Neighbourhoods attended a formal event at the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester to celebrate their success, showcase their work and learn from others.

The great work done in our Age-Friendly Neighbourhoods, both in Tameside and elsewhere in Greater Manchester, shows that we are giving thought to what kind of places we want our parents to grow old in, that we want ourselves to grow old in, and that we want our children to grow old in. Sooner or later this is an issue that is going to affect us all. An Age-Friendly Greater Manchester is in all our interests. Let’s keep working to make it happen.
 

Posted by: Executive Leader


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