BLOG: How one story led to another...and inspired a special report into how older people 'fit' into city life

By 2050, the number of people over 60 will double

It was going to be a report on a scheme that provides grants for older people in Greater Manchester - write Reporter Tim Scott and Producer Anna Youssef.

But then we saw Victoria Square a stones-throw from the city centre. It’s one of the oldest examples of council housing in the country and home to over 160 over-60s.

We saw its award-winning gardens and its modern lifts. We met some of the people who live and work there and listened to what they had to say about living in the city centre. And we thought it would be a good idea to make the report about what it’s like to be “older” and living in a city-centre, a place that’s usually associated with trendy flats full of upwardly mobile “young people”.

We also wanted to ask how our cities could develop to accommodate older people. After all, the numbers of older people are on the rise. The number of over 60s will double by 2050 and that will present challenges to planners, developers and government, both local and national.

Elaine Horne is a retired nurse who lives in Victoria Square. She enjoys the gardens there, the meditation class she runs and the company of her friend, artist Jim Giles. But she says living in the city centre has its drawbacks; expensive fish and chips and “artisan” bread for starters!

Ged Reek also lives in Victoria Square. A keen record collector, he DJs for tea-dances at sheltered accommodation around the city. His equipment is paid for by the Greater Manchester-wide Ambition For Ageing Project, whose work was the starting point for our report.

A mile away, we met Chinese over 60s living in Manchester’s Chinatown. Tung Sung is the UK’s first purpose-built development for older Chinese people. They told me they love being in the heart of their traditional community. They enjoy the hustle and bustle of city-centre life. And they enjoy the Chinese casinos!

Tung Sung is a haven for older Chinese people Credit: Granada Reports

Mark Hammond from The Manchester School of Architecture told us that it’s not just these traditional development that are catering for older people. He says much of the new housing springing up around the city centre will suit them; most flats are built on a single storey and most have good lift-access.

In suburban Withington though, widow Elma Crolla told me she has no desire at all to visit the city-centre. She says she doesn’t recognise it anymore and worries about crossing the metro lines. She uses her car to drive to smaller centres like Stockport and Stretford when she wants to go out. She socialises with friends at community centres and we saw her tapping her feet at the sheltered accommodation where Ged was DJ-ing. She believes there’s plenty out there for older and retired people to do. But said it can be hard at first, finding the motivation to get out the house.

So, the report presents a snapshot of what life is like for older people in Manchester. But with our population getting older, should our cities be doing more to accommodate them?