By Margaret Smith
Last year City and Hackney Carers Centre in Hackney received a grant from the People’s Postcode Lottery. The grant was to fund a one year project aiming to make Hackney a more age friendly borough for people aged 60 and over. We called the scheme the Oldie Friendly Hackney project.
I was a member of the steering group. You may have heard about our campaign. Our aim was to make Hackney a more welcoming and accessible borough for older people.
Oldie friendly Hackney businesses
Firstly we very much wanted to improve the customer experience for those over 60. You may have seen our logo – a circle with 60+ inside it – displayed in certain cafes, shops and businesses across Hackney.
We give our logo to those businesses we consider to be oldie friendly, businesses that have put measures in place to help older customers have a better time.
Such measures include things like offering discounts to older people, helping older customers to their tables or seats, having a toilet with stair free access, having sufficient space between tables which allows older people to move around safely and so on.
Older people using these businesses are guaranteed to be treated politely and respectfully. It also makes sound economic and business sense for a café or shop to be oldie friendly.
Older people are encouraged to use these businesses and the resultant publicity will generate increased trade.
The challenge of Kingsland High Street
Improving transport for older people is another ambition of the Oldie Friendly project. In February this year, Sallie Fellowes and myself timed the traffic lights situated on the A10, Kingsland High St directly outside the entrance to the indoor Kingsland Shopping Mall in Dalston E8. There was a mere 13 seconds crossing time.
I emailed Transport for London (TFL) to tell them that in our view 13 seconds was insufficient time for older people to cross the road at this junction, especially for those with mobility issues or other health conditions. TFL investigated this crossing.
After considering congestion and traffic movement in the area, TFL judged 13 seconds to be long enough crossing time and were unable to extend the duration. We were disappointed but trusted in TFL’s expertise in this matter.
I am certain that these transport issues and many others will affect not only older people but the wider community as well.
Oldie-Friendly Hackney schools
The Oldie Friendly Hackney scheme has also been involved in some inter-generational projects.
We presented Stoke Newington school with a certificate for becoming the first oldie friendly school in the borough. The school laid on a Christmas party last year with lots of entertainment and party bags for lots of older people.
We also recently visited Millfields Community School and older people discussed their experiences of World War 2 and of being evacuees with Year 5 (10 year olds).
The older people brought in photos of themselves as children and answered questions from the schoolchildren on topics like rationing and doodlebugs. The children enjoyed the session so much that at the end, they gave the older people a tour of their school.
The Oldie Friendly Hackney project has been gathering momentum since it started. We wish to improve the quality of life for older people, achieve change in society and fight ageism whenever we come across it.
For details of what the Oldie Friendly project achieved visit their website. www.oldiefriendly.org.uk