About the Centre for Ageing Better
The UK’s population is undergoing a massive age shift. By 2050, one in four people will be over 65. The fact that many of us are living longer is a great achievement. But unless radical action is taken by the government, business and others in society, millions of us risk missing out on enjoying those extra years.
At the Centre for Ageing Better we want everyone to enjoy later life. We create change in policy and practice informed by evidence and work with partners across England to improve employment, housing, health and communities.
We are a charitable foundation, funded by The National Lottery Community Fund, and part of the government’s What Works Network.
Levelling up requires an understanding of local demography
We are all living longer, however more of those years are spent in in poor health and disability. If we are to level up the country and tackle inequalities, focusing on people aged 50-70 is critical. Local plans must account for local demographics both now and in the future.
By 2040, for the first time, more than 40% of us will be aged over 50. However, a boy born in Blackpool is set to live nine years less than a boy born in Westminster; and a girl born in Camden can expect to live almost eight years longer than one born in Blackpool. There are also huge inequalities in disability-free life expectancy across the country of as much as 17 years. The disability free life expectancy for girls in Blackpool is 53 years, whereas in Waltham Forest it is 69.5.
The places experiencing the greatest and most rapid changes in demography are largely or mainly rural, many of which are on the coast. A combination of outward migration of young people and inward migration of older people, many of whom are retirees looking for a good place to enjoy their next phase of life, helps to contribute to this picture.
Place-based approaches and collaboration
Local authorities have powers and responsibility for many of the big infrastructure investments that will make a long-term, sustainable difference. However good local leadership identifies trends, sets goals, brings people together for common purpose and acts as an example. The nature of local democracies makes for closer links and understanding between statutory services and the people that live and work in a place.
By taking a place-based approach to levelling up and designing solutions from the bottom up, local authorities can take a leading role in transforming their local area. Local authorities are often conceptualised by what they don’t have, rather than what they do. However, each area has unique strengths. By looking closely at local data, they can identify who needs to be collaborating and where specific funds should be targeted to boost the economy. For example, LEPs could recognise they need to focus on older workers and create a collaborative skills and jobs agenda. Collaboration will look different in each local area. However, by putting place at the heart of decision making and highlighting the strengths of the community, local areas can make unique networks.
Greater Manchester recognised their ageing population and unique strengths in research capabilities and life sciences. They focused their local industrial strategy on seizing the opportunities of the demographic shift and improving the health of the population. Greater Manchester are establishing an Innovation Partnership on Healthy Ageing, with a board comprising of representatives from GM, the private sector and government agencies and departments. Similarly, the North of Tyne devolution deal prioritised inclusive growth by developing an Employment Support Framework Agreement that will drive better coordination of employment, skills and health services. They will seek to improve the progression of employees and particularly focus on the retention and progression of older workers. This requires collaboration between DWP, Jobcentre Plus, the LEP, local businesses and local authority partners. GMCA are also working with DWP and the Centre for Ageing Better on a pilot to redesign employment support services for older workers. Both initiatives have recognised the importance of older people to their local economic success, something that will be even more important in the post pandemic recovery.
Involvement of residents in decision making is essential
One way to understand the issues facing us as we age is to set up a consultative group to ensure older people’s voices are heard. The Centre for Ageing Better, the Leeds Older People’s Forum and Leeds City Council work together to highlight the voices of older residents and tackle the social and health inequalities experienced by people in later life. Councillors should take every opportunity to speak with older residents to understand the unique problems and opportunities in their area. Only by talking to older people and seeing the local context through their eyes will real solutions be found.
A great example of this is the UK Network of Age-friendly Communities. By joining the network, local authorities show their commitment to addressing the concerns of older residents and celebrating their local achievements. In an age-friendly community, services, local groups, businesses and residents all work together to identify and make the changes in both the physical environment (e.g. transport, outdoor spaces) and social environment (e.g. volunteering, employment) that are relevant to their own local context and enable people to lead healthy and active later lives.
Sefton joined the Age-friendly Communities network in 2018 and has a Sefton Partnership for Older Citizens (SPOC) that brings together the Older People’s Forums. The group successfully worked with Liverpool City Region Combined Authority and Merseytravel to improve accessibility of train stations. Merseytravel used the forum to gather feedback and local support for their funding bid. The partnership has since developed further with SPOC now represented on the Age Friendly Liverpool City Region Steering Group. Locally and across the city region, the experiences and perspectives of older people will continue to inform and support age-friendly improvements.
 ONS (2019) Living longer and old-age dependency – what does the future hold? https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/birthsdeathsandmarriages/ageing/articles/livinglongerandoldagedependencywhatdoesthefuturehold/2019-06-24
 Centre for Ageing Better (2020) https://www.ageing-better.org.uk/news/todays-children-reach-retirement-age-ill-health-and-disability
 ONS (2019) Health state life expectancy at birth and at age 65 by local areas www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/healthandsocialcare/healthandlifeexpectancies/datasets/healthstatelifeexpectancyatbirthandatage65bylocalareasuk