City Centres For Young People, Suburbs For Older People: Ageist Planning For Homes?

Front door (small).jpgThe city centres of England, we are told, are populated mainly by young singles; but at the same time there is an increase in the number of older people who have supported independent living. So how do these two facets of modern life fit together?
The ‘conveyor belt effect’ is a new one on me. Apparently it refers to the idea that city centres tend to be populated by single 18-34’s, who then move out to the suburbs.
A new report by the Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR) City People: City Centre Living in the UK tells us that as many as two thirds of the population of some city centres is aged 18 – 34; and they are twice as likely to be single as the average Briton. But then they move out – hence the conveyor…
But where do older people live?
It’s an interesting contrast that, in the same Guardian reporting column (11 January 2006) that I read about the IPPR study, there’s a piece on independent living for older people.
Apparently there has been a rise in the proportion of older people in England who live independently at home, rather than in residential care (30.1% in 2003/4; 32% in 2004-5); but it’s uneven by region. The Health and Social Care Information Centre (report, PP 6 10) found wide regional variations, with 44.7% for inner London and only 27.7% in unitary authorities.
It would be interesting to know more about where these older, independently housed people live. Are some of them in the city centres too? Or are they on they periphery, having ‘moved out’ when they had their families? Or were housing patterns when they were young quite different anyway, with the ‘extended family’ arrangements reported for instance in London’s Bethnal Green, by Willmott and Young all those years ago?
Do housing plans actually meet need?
In an earlier piece I suggested that there’s a need to incorporate accommodation in small blocks in all sorts of housing areas. City centres must be made much more friendly for families and older people; and the suburbs (and that strange ‘donut’ around city centres) needs to have much more flexible and helpful housing units too. And this applies to towns and villages at least as much as it does to cities, as perhaps the NHS / HSCIC data indicate.
When there’s a real mix, there’s more chance of support for everyone, and a real community – and that’s where I’d love the planners and builders really to get a grip.
Read the discussion of this article which follows the book E-store….

Posted on January 16, 2006, in Equality, Diversity And Inclusion, Politics, Policies And Process, Regeneration, Renewal And Resilience. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. The conclusions to the IPPR report, and more especially, the supportive noises made by the so called ‘regeneration experts’ for me reveal more about the continuing shortcomings of the industry rather than any new insights being unearthed.
    When looking at downtown regeneration, the more subtle changes in perceptions and approach that is evident across the globe are still largely missing in the U.K. Some of the language may have changed, but the same old assumptions about the pre-eminence of retail and leisure in zoned consumer centres still pervades.
    To state blandly that downtowns are ‘too noisy’ and attract the wrong sort of activities for families, so should be discouraged is to fundamentally miss the point, as well as the huge opportunity for sustainable growth by actively assisting family inhabitation.
    Until the industry takes on board the view (and thoroughly understands the value) that the type of environment conducive to large numbers of families living downtown is actually the best one for all other elements to thrive then they will remain part of the problem, rather than part of the solution.
    It is not as if some sort of new utopian social urban thinking is needed. Instead maybe they should just take a working trip to New York, Paris, Lyon or Barcelona. They will see that their downtowns, far from being weakened as a result of thousands of families living in the heart of their commercial centres, are in fact enhanced by this extra dimension.
    One of the keenest aspects of the revival of lower Manhattan in recent years has been the intensive reinstatement of family residential infrastructure to go along with the usual lofts, condos and small enterprises… and of course, all those commercial skyscrapers!
    Turning our city centres from bedlam into something more sophisticated would encourage more enterprise and culture.
    The basic principles of Intensification, mixing uses and enterprise are vital to any long term recovery the city may undertake.

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