To help older people feel more confident about leaving their homes, housing providers across Greater Manchester are encouraging local businesses to sign up to the ‘Take a seat’ scheme in a bid to make our region more inclusive, accessible and age-friendly.
Inspired by a similar project in New York City, the scheme simply asks local businesses to make seats, toilets and a drink of water available to people who may need them. Businesses that sign up to the scheme are also given a checklist of ways to make their premises more age- and dementia-friendly. They are encouraged to display clear signs, store items within easy reach, and keep floors clutter-free.
The idea has already been successfully implemented and delivered in south Manchester by Southway Housing and is now being rolled out across the region by Greater Manchester Housing Providers Group.
‘Take a seat’ ties in with the Mayor of Greater Manchester’s ambitions to make Greater Manchester the UK’s first age-friendly city region, and is part of wider plans designed to make our shops and local town centres more accessible to all, benefiting both local people and local economies.
The Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, said: “We should be celebrating the fact that people are living longer and do all we can to help people live their lives to the full as they grow older. This scheme has the potential to make a huge difference to people’s lives; more people will feel able to leave their homes, socialise and interact with others, and lead a much better quality of life.
“I’m determined for Greater Manchester to become the first age-friendly city region in the UK, and simple schemes like this are just the start. We need to change attitudes and do more to remedy those barriers that prevent older people from contributing to and playing an active role in their communities.”
Oldham Council Leader and Greater Manchester Combined Authority’s lead for Fairness, Equality and Inclusion, Jean Stretton, added: “It’s vital that we make Greater Manchester a more accessible and age-friendly place for everyone, so I really welcome the launch of Take a Seat. Facilities that offer people the ability to stay independent and at ease in getting out and about in their local communities are really important. Barriers to this must be broken down to help with inclusion as they affect many people, particularly older people or people with a disability. “We have a growing older population across Greater Manchester so the challenge of becoming the first age-friendly City Region is one we must start to tackle now. By offering friendly facilities like this – and without the pressure to buy – businesses can help to make a real difference to the lives and confidence of many people in their communities.”
Initially delivered in Manchester by local housing provider, Southway Housing, ‘Take a seat’ is now being rolled out across the region by Greater Manchester Housing Providers Group, and 25 housing providers have already agreed to rollout the scheme in their local area.
Karen Mitchell, CEO of Southway Housing, has long been an advocate of the scheme and played an instrumental role in getting the project rolled out across Greater Manchester. She said: “Southway’s age-friendly work has changed many lives in south Manchester. As such it has been recognised as a leading model regarding the projects and ideas that have grown from our extensive work and research. We are really pleased to be extending our ideas and tools to more partners so we can help enhance the lives of even more people across the city and beyond.”
Elaine Unegbu, from Greater Manchester’s Older People’s Network added: “We’re delighted that Greater Manchester is taking this vital step to make shops and businesses more accessible. Older people want to get out and about, and we want to do as much as we can as independently as possible. We look forward to working with those involved in the scheme to make sure older people across Greater Manchester have a voice in the decisions that affect their lives.”
In support of Andy Burnham’s plans to make Greater Manchester a great place to grow old, the Greater Manchester Ageing Hub is leading work to make Greater Manchester the first age-friendly city-region in the UK.
Today (22 August) Andy Burnham and Jean Stretton, will meet with older people from the Fatima Women’s Association in Oldham to talk to them about their experiences and hear their views on the new scheme. The Fatima Women’s Association is just one of the projects to have benefited from the £10.2m ‘Ambition for Ageing’ programme led by the Greater Manchester Centre for Voluntary Organisations (GMCVO) funded by the Big Lottery. The funding is designed to create more age-friendly places and help people live fulfilling lives as they grow older.
Find out more about the ‘Take a seat’ scheme and download the information pack from www.southwayhousing.co.uk/agefriendlydocuments.