Exploring how to help leaders make Greater Manchester more ‘age-friendly’

To mark the UN’s International Day of Older Persons on October 1st, a new project has been launched which aims to help researchers and policymakers to make Greater Manchester a more ‘age-friendly’ region by providing a better understanding of the lives and experiences of older people.

Working with partner organisations across the region, Lecturer in Social and Cultural Geography Dr Amy Barron from The University of Manchester has created a booklet which showcases the different ways older age is lived in Greater Manchester, and an accompanying animation. 

Beyond Older Age: Approaches to Understand the Diverse Lives of Older People’ includes material from a photo and story collection co-produced with older residents. It details how policymakers and academics can use a more creative, participatory approach when working with older people, and introduces a selection of methods that might be used. 

The booklet argues that such an approach can be used to better represent older people’s lives in policy and research – something pivotal to the creation of age-friendly cities – as well as creating a living archive of everyday life that is of significance to policy and interested residents.

The project responds to calls from the Greater Manchester Ageing Hub about the need for new, innovative methods with regards to co-production. By showcasing how older age is experienced differently, the project responds to research and campaigns which have identified that representations of older age often fall back on medicalised, stereotypical accounts of what constitutes older lives. 

“There is a risk the catch-all term of ‘older people’, which refers to a diverse group, becomes a catch-all agenda – we should not treat all ‘older people’ and places as the same,” said Dr Barron. 

This booklet offers a guide to a more immersive, flexible, creative, and participatory approach for engaging with those within the category – enabling policy communities, academics, and others to gain a richer, localised and more personal understanding of what it means to be an older person. This is absolutely vital if we are to truly be ‘age-friendly’.

“This booklet offers great insight into the diversity of life experience amongst older people and some practical and effective research methods,” said Virginia Tandy, Director of The Creative Ageing Development Agency. “It also highlights the central importance of social connection and agency to ageing well.”

Creating Age-Friendly Cities is a key theme under The University of Manchester’s Global Inequalities Research Beacon and a Grand Challenge for the UK Government. The Greater Manchester Ageing Hub is working to make the region age-friendly, and developing a rich understanding of older lives is pivotal to this task.