How will the city look after you as you age?

Freedom to get around

People who are older deserve the ability to move safely, conveniently and enjoyably around Yarra, e.g. to walk or roll on mobility scooters to shops, activities or their friends houses. Even better would be if streets were shaded by trees, and offered places to rest, meet and socialise.

We need to shift the conversation on ageing to healthy ageing and creating environments that better support ageing in place. Age-friendly places aren’t just good for older people. They also support the needs of children, people with a disability and everyone else in a community.

Melanie Davern et al, The Conversation
Image credit: CC0 Public Domain/Pixabay
Image credit: Kathleen Brasher in The Conversation
Image credit: Caroline Osborne in The Conversation

Yarra’s Ageing Strategy

Yarra has an Active and Healthy Ageing Strategy with a vision that includes:

The City of Yarra is an Age-Friendly City…Our environments and public spaces are safe and supportive…

Active and Healthy Ageing Strategy
Image credit: City of Yarra

The strategy identifies a key theme as:

The key to living well in Yarra is the ability to independently access a variety of programs and support services which allow them to connect to other people and experience the health (mental and physical) benefits of socialisation and exercise.

Active and Healthy Ageing Strategy

The strategy identifies several goals, including:

GOAL 1: Outdoor spaces: …increase mobility and decrease car dependency.

GOAL 2: Transport: People 50+ can get out and about…

Active and Healthy Ageing Strategy

However, the strategy fails to recommend significant increase in the budget for wider, smoother footpaths, including continuous footpaths (raised threshold treatments) at intersections. Actions 1.1.2, 1.1.3, 1.2.1, 1.2.2, 1.3.1, etc all falsely claim that upgrades and improvements can occur within existing resources. In contrast, Yarra needs to increase its expenditure on walking, cycling, place making and public transport by an order of magnitude. We need improvements to many footpaths in Yarra, because too many are too narrow or obstructed.

Example of a narrow and obstructed footpath. Image credit: Streets Alive Yarra

Solutions

Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU) writes that an ageing population needs walkable, bikeable cities:

Image credit: CNU

Walking

Walking (or rolling with a mobility scooter) is the easiest, lowest cost option for seniors, and requires a network of wide, even footpaths. Even better would be more pocket parks, rest stops (e.g. seats on footpaths, next to trees) and places where people can interact. The City of Yarra should not offer the excuse that “many streets in Yarra are too narrow to accommodate traditional park bench style seating”.  Yarra has enough public land to build a footpath network that complies with best practice, including seating. All we have to do is reallocate space from on-street parking to walking and seating. 

Image credit: Global Street Design Guide

E-biking

As people age they may lose their ability or confidence to operate a motor vehicle, however they can still ride. There are three barriers preventing older people from cycling in Yarra; getting up hills, pedalling longer distances, or the fear of being hit by a car. These barriers can be solved by modern e-bikes and by constructing a network of protected bicycle lanes that link 30 km/h superblocks.

Image credit: Pedestrian & Bicycle Information Centre webinar

Design guides

Learn more from this collection of design guides, including the WHO guide to age-friendly cities:

Source: WHO

Conclusion

Yarra can be better for seniors if we invest in:

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