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Age Friendly Leeds 2015

Making Leeds the Best City to Grow Old in

Leeds City Council has identified Making Leeds the Best City to Grow Old in as one of its eight breakthrough projects. The breakthrough projects will help the Council to achieve its objectives by cutting through traditional boundaries and engaging partners and communities differently.

In March we held our stakeholder event to bring partners together to have a dialogue about how we can make Leeds the Best City to Grow Old in. The event was opened by Cllr Ogilvie and closed by Cllr Mulherin, the lead councillors for the project, with speakers from Leeds City Council and Leeds Older People’s Forum (LOPF). 85 delegates attended from a range of organisations.

The outcomes from the discussions at the event have been used to shape our Best City to Grow Old in Action Plan which was launched  at Leeds City Museum on the International Day of Older People. The launch event included presentations from a range of projects from around the city.

Social isolation

The impact of social isolation was top of the list at the first of Yorkshire Evening Posts’ flagship Voice of Leeds 2015 summits in January. Senior officers from Adult Social Care and Public Health attended to discuss how to tackle the growing issue.

In July an ‘Unloneliness’ conference was held, attended by over 120 people who got together to work out some things we could do to make Leeds less lonely and people less isolated. The evidence tells us loneliness and isolation have a big impact on health and wellbeing and a society where there are better links between people of all ages, communities and backgrounds seems to work better.

Leeds is one of fifteen Ageing Better areas – a new Big Lottery programme that aims to reduce social isolation and loneliness amongst older people (age 50+). The project, led by LOPF, will run for 6 years with a budget of approximately £6m and will reach at least 15,000 older people in the city. All the contracts have been signed for our first round of grants, and all of the projects are underway. The range of activities is astounding. More information about the projects can be found on LOPF’s website.

Leeds Hydration Week

In June we raised a cup to Leeds Hydration Week, with a tea dance and a performance by Heydays drama group to remind older people of the importance of staying hydrated.

Living with dementia

For a person living with dementia visiting the theatre can be a challenging experience or even too much. At the West Yorkshire Playhouse staff and people living with dementia have worked together to remove the barriers that could stop someone with dementia coming to see a show.

A dementia friendly performance of Beryl – a play about the Leeds-born female cycling champion from the 1950s took place in July. To make the play more accessible for people with dementia, changes were made to the script, staging and lighting, and a relaxed environment was created for the audience.

CINAGE

Northern Film School at Leeds Beckett University held an exciting conference and film festive on 17 and 18 July to celebrate CINAGE.  The two year CINAGE project has been funded from Europe’s lifelong learning programme, Grundtvig and provided an opportunity for older people to learn the art of filmmaking and produce their own short films. In the UK the participants, who were all from Leeds and surrounding areas, and attended practical film making workshops at the Northern Film School at Leeds Beckett University.

Designing with Older People

We had an interesting time at the Designing with Older People workshops at the Civic Hall run by Cori Moore, an innovation consultant based in Berlin.  Cori describes herself as bridging the gap between research & innovation; she uses LEGO® Serious Play® to get people to think creatively. LEGO® Serious Play® is a recognised practice developed by LEGO which aims to unlock imagination and innovation.

In the afternoon, we moved onto redesigning death. A workshop focused on getting people to talk about end of life issues and think about them in a different way. This linked in well with our Dying Matters campaign aimed at encouraging people to talk about and plan for end of life.

International Day of Older People

To celebrate IDOP in Leeds a week of community events took place supported by small grants totalling £4,020. 21 organisations received funding and the events were attended by over 771 older people (60+) and 232 younger people.

Using digital technology to make the lives of older people better

The objective of the Age Friendly Smart City project is to develop robust technology solutions that can empower older residents and make Leeds the best city to grow old in. Our goal is to develop a range of low-cost solutions that address a genuine need in 4 focus areas. During this project, Leeds City Council will co-produce solutions with older residents, key stakeholders and a cohort of independent technical experts. These experts work in fields such as wearables technology, Internet of Things and open data.

The first event of the project was an open event which provided an opportunity for Leeds residents, service providers and technologists to get to know each other better, share ideas, discuss and plan what needs to happen to make Leeds an Age Friendly Smart City. The goal being to understand the small steps we need to take in order to address the big issues. Feedback on the day shows that we achieved our most important goal of bringing people together.

The next step was to run a series of hackathons which we called Innovation Labs. A hackathon is a one-day event where staff, service users and voluntary sector organisations work with technologists in groups to explore how new technologies can benefit the city, develop an idea and create a simple prototype.

Ideas from the labs which are being progressed further are a simple communications box where residents just press a button to talk to their neighbours, and a beacon system to advise when buses are due which can be put anywhere.

We have also held a workshop for older people to learn all about wearables – what they are, what they can do and how they work. The workshop wanted to explore the reaction of people attending in understanding the underlying principles of such devices and give them enough information to make informed choices and a hands-on experience of playing with new technology.

We used some rather unique learning aides – RaspberryPi with Unicorn Hats as well as IoT circuits. This meant all participants could understand the cause-and-effect relationship between sensors and algorithms, which is the basis of any connected device and wearable. Now they understand what it means to be ‘Internet of Things (IoT) ready’. Someone did comment they were sold an IoT television set but at the time had no idea what it was.

More information about these projects can be found on the Better Lives blog.

We are looking forward to more exciting work in 2016 when we will be:

  • Undertaking an audit of intergeneration work in the city, and sharing good practice;
  • Developing links with the Council’s City Centre management team, and Leeds Business Improvement District;
  • Developing an Older Person’s Housing Strategy;
  • Focusing on older learners and older unemployed people as a priority group;
  • Continuing our Smart cities project;
  • Further development of our communications strategy;

Plus we will be hosting the national Ageing Without Children Conference in Leeds on 26th January 2016.