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Change Our Streets To Help Older People Stay Active

Change Our Streets To Help Older People Stay Active


loneliness David Hodgson 500

A raft of new proposals to improve our streets and help older people become more active has been welcomed by South Yorkshire’s leading expert on walking.

Better pavements, more public toilets, benches and “walking buddies” are among a host of ideas in a new report by Age UK and the International Longevity Centre, which spent six months working with academics to look at how communities need to adapt to an ageing society.

Making our Communities Ready for Ageing suggests getting rid of the current old people crossing sign, urging shops to allow non-customers to use toilets to avoid them being on a “bladder leash” and ring-fencing public health money to fix pavements which in turn would prevent falls and cost to the NHS.

Darren Padgett, director of Team Activ, is leading the Walk Barnsley initiative which is a two-year project aimed at encouraging more people to take the first steps to a healthy life.

He said: “This report reveals how planning and street maintenance goes hand in hand with public health. It’s estimated there will be six million people aged 80+ by 2037 and we need to look now at encouraging people to use their car less.

“This will help people’s health now but also it will help the transition when they become too frail to drive or don’t have access to a car.

“We can’t encourage people to walk more if there are no streetlights or public toilets and potholes can be lethal for older people.

“There are very simple ways to make street-life easier, such as providing more benches so older people can rest. Research has shown older people worry they are not quick enough to cross the road but puffin crossings with sensors to detect when people are still crossing can tackle this and we’re lucky that in Barnsley, there are already many of these type of crossings.

“The report also mentions a buddy scheme where a younger, more able person walks with an older person. Acting now means we can start to build better communities for our older relatives and ourselves.”

The Barnsley Health and Wellbeing Board has already pledged its support to the national Dementia Friends campaign, and they will be working with local organisations, businesses, carers and people with dementia to make Barnsley a dementia friendly town.

the reading bench David Hodgson

Councillor Sir Steve Houghton, Leader of Barnsley Council, said:

"With one in three of us over 65 developing dementia, it's crucial that all key partners in the borough work together with voluntary services, local businesses, people with dementia and their carers to try and make Barnsley a dementia friendly town."

The Age Concern report says there is no need for “revolutionary ideas or enormous budgets” but there needs to be better government policy rather than the existing piecemeal guidance currently in place. And because of the recent austerity measures, there are greater constraints on what can be funded with public money.

It says: “The Department for Transport should consider replacing the older people crossing road sign with a sign with more positive imagery promoting walking as part of later life.

“The cost of maintaining pavements should be justified through public health outcomes such as falls reduction, with segments of public health budgets potentially ring fenced to support improvements to pavements.

“The availability of public toilets should be a public health priority. Retailers and businesses with a high street presence should have corporate social responsibility strategies to include access to toilets for non-customers.”


Team Activ is a not-for-profit organisation which aims to get people of all ages in Barnsley active. Walk Barnsley is a partnership between Team Activ, InMotion, which promotes walking, cycling, and public transport in South Yorkshire; Barnsley College and Active Barnsley. The contract is part of the South Yorkshire Local Sustainable Travel Fund.


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