Volunteers, charities and civic leaders will come together next week to take the first steps in making Leeds the country’s best place to grow old.
The event at Leeds Town Hall on Monday will see representatives from key groups discuss ways the city’s 150,000 older people can get the best out of their lives, including focussing on social participation as the city continues its battle against loneliness and social isolation among older people.
It comes after Leeds was included in the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) global network of age-friendly cities and communities last year, which priorities access to outdoor spaces, transport, housing and health services.
Around 80 people are expected to attend from groups including Safer Leeds, the Alzheimer’s Society, Leeds Older People’s Forum and the chamber of commerce.
Coun Adam Ogilvie, Leeds Council’s executive member for adult social care, said the event was the first major step on “what promises to be an exciting journey”, that the council’s hopes will culminate in Leeds being the country’s best city for people to grow old in.
“We know that Leeds already has an incredibly dedicated network of groups and individuals working to ensure older people are given the best possible opportunities to enjoy the city,” he said.
“By gathering people together from some of those organisations we can share and discuss our best ideas and hopefully change the future landscape of the city for all of our older people.”
There are currently around 150,000 people aged over 60 living in the city, a number set to rise. An estimated 30,855 people in Leeds aged over 65 are also expected to be living alone by 2020.
Coun Lisa Mulherin, the council’s executive member for health and wellbeing, said: “It is crucial that we listen to older people and enable them to help us to shape both the services that are provided and the city’s infrastructure in the future.
“We know that having strong social and support networks in place can be hugely beneficial to the health and wellbeing of older people, empowering them to continue to enjoy independent and active lives.
“It is only by coming together and pooling our thoughts and ideas that we can change the way in which older people participate in life in our city both now and in the future.”
The event will support extensive work already ongoing to help make Leeds an age-friendly city.
In September, Leeds Older People’s Forum (LOPF) was successful in bidding for £6m in Big Lottery funding to help tackle loneliness and social isolation.
Supported by Leeds Council, the Time to Shine project will receive £1m a year for the next six years to establish new services across the city that will keep older people in touch with their communities and out of the grip of social isolation.
Bill Rollinson, chair of LOPF, said: “Since our successful bid for £6m in Big Lottery funding, we have been working closely with different groups across the city to find the best and most innovative ways of breaking the devastating cycle of loneliness and social isolation among local older people.
“We’re looking forward to getting together with the council and other organisations at this event and sharing some of those ideas. By working together, we can get closer to our shared goal of making Leeds the best place in the country for people to enjoy growing old.”
The event comes just weeks after the YEP held a summit to discuss the issue, bringing together key players in the public, private and community sectors.