While the city centre population continues to swell around the 20 and 30-something age brackets, the number of people aged 50 and over is projected to rise above 40% in half of Greater Manchester’s ten boroughs by 2031. In light of this, a recent report by the GM Ageing Hub entitled Developing a Strategy for Age-friendly Greater Manchester outlines why and how the area can start to become an age-friendly region in anticipation of these expected demographic and socio-economic changes.

Among the recommendations of the report are the promotion of age-friendly programmes, recognising the value of neighbourhoods, encouraging and including BAME communities, the promotion of good quality housing, improving green and blue infrastructure, and securing good quality age-friendly employment.

Another is to reduce the social isolation felt by older people in Greater Manchester. The #30DaysofFriendship campaign seeks to raise awareness of those who have fewer comrades to call on over the festive period, as the nights draw in and the hours indoors increase.

The campaign is initiated by Cyril Flint Befrienders, a charity whose inception was thanks to the elderly Trafford resident Mr Flint’s experience in old-age of 22 consecutive Christmas days spent alone since his wife had died. To avoid a 23rd, his carer shared his story of loneliness, an advert was placed in the local paper and the subsequent inundation of offers of Yuletide companionship was heart-warming.

There are affiliated events and a call-out to arrange your own contributions to the programme, whether fundraising, donating raffle prizes, sharing via social media, volunteering your time or simply attending an event. Better still, call in on your elderly neighbour or relative.

It’s an example of the small neighbourly acts of kindness that can have a hugely positive therapeutic effect, according to dementia research being conducted at the University of Manchester. Maintaining familiarity with and connection to the local community are may well be key to relieving the inevitable pressure on health and social care sector as more people live longer.

Similar voluntary friendship schemes include Chorlton Good Neighbours, NEPHRA Good Neighbours, Manchester Mind and your local Age UK branch. Ambition for Ageing at Greater Manchester Centre for Voluntary Organisation (GMCVO) is among the local groups seeking to develop age-friendly approaches in the region, including Design Thinking workshops which aim to ensure appropriate facilities and infrastructure to cater for the needs of old age.

The #30DaysofFriendship campaign launches on Monday 13 November to coincide with World Kindness Day.

cyrilflint.org/30-days-of-friendship
gmcvo.org.uk

Ian Pennington