How will the city look after you as you age?
People who are older deserve the freedom 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
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
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.
What Yarra can do
Yarra can make streets better for seniors by building:
- wider footpaths and safe crossings,
- protected bicycle lanes that link 30 km/h streets in Low Traffic Neighbourhoods, and
- protected level-access tram stops.
Budget is needed to pay for the necessary infrastructure improvements, and revenue is available by reforming the pricing of on-street parking. Unfortunately, council faces several barriers to implementation, including:
- Some residents don’t want council to allocate more street space to walking and cycling
- Some residents don’t want council to charge market rates for on-street parking
Each of us can help by showing our support for an increased allocation of street space and budget for walking and cycling, e.g. by appearing as a champion on the Streets Alive Yarra website.
Guidance from experts
Both the Heart Foundation and the Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU) write that seniors need cities that prioritise walking, cycling and public transport:
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.
We know how to make Yarra’s streets better for seniors, we just need to deliver it.