I seem to be involved with Age Friendly City projects at a local and international level and feel frustrated that the well-meaning organisers don’t either involve older people in trying to achieve this, or, worse still don’t seem to realise that they should involve us. If they were designing functions or events for disabled people I’m sure that it would be obvious to them that they should involve people with disabilities yet when it comes to older people it doesn’t seem to occur to them to include us in the plans or arrangements. To me this is an obvious case of elder abuse as well as being less than efficient.

I wrote to a conference organiser associated with one international organisation complaining about the fact that those who come after us will be horrified at conferences on ageing not involving older people. I got a very rude response beginning ‘Dear Mr Guy’ in spite of the fact that I had made my identity very clear!

My own stand is that making cities age friendly is neither practical nor cost effective except that such plans are usually also beneficial for people with small children and the disabled. Then it embraces a very large section of the community and is therefore beneficial to a lot of people. When my own city applied to become an age friendly city one of the first things it was going to do was to install appropriate seating in shopping centres etc. Several years later we still haven’t got them. I visited three centres just before Christmas last year and was struck by how unhappy all the shoppers looked. Not only would installing appropriate seating make shopping a much more pleasant event for the groups listed above but when other shoppers see these people happier and more relaxed then shopping becomes a much more pleasant event for them too. Wouldn’t happy shoppers promote shopping which is what these centres should be all about? In a highly competitive retail environment those responsible for managing them should be aware of issues such as this but their training strangely does not seem to include the elements of age friendly cities.

I hope that those who come after us will realise that some of us have been trying to fight for elder inclusiveness. It’s just that we feel as though we are up against an impregnable brick wall and we don’t know how to shift it.