Think Pieces

Learning to view the world through Age Friendly glasses

Shekha is our new intern sharing her experience of Age Better in Sheffield so far. She will be joining us in our mission to hear from the people of Sheffield what an Age-friendly Sheffield looks like to them.

By Imogen Parker · July 19, 2021

Being taken on as an intern as a part of the Age Better in Sheffield team I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, I had never before heard of the phrase Age-Friendly and suddenly it was all I’m hearing. What does Age Friendly actually mean? I didn’t know, I have lived here for three years as a student and hadn’t put much thought into how older people navigate the city.

As a 21-year-old, I’m sure many my age would agree that we don’t often think about accessibility for older people. I’m not sure why we don’t,  I don’t think it’s because we don’t care because young people are often the fiercest advocates of what is right. It could be partly attributed to people only caring about issues that directly impact themselves. For some reason, when we are young we see ageing as an abstract concept somewhere vague in the future, that may not even affect us. However, it is an inevitability for all of us, we are all growing older as we speak, so it is in everyone’s interest to make the world a better place to grow older in.

The Who still are still singing  “I hope I die before I get old” well into their 70s, which I think is a sentiment that a lot of young people live by. When you’re young, becoming older is such an undesirable concept that death seems like a better option, this most likely fuels the stigmas attached to being old. The older community are burdened with so many stereotypes and judgements which need to be challenged, and that is what this programme has been successfully doing for 6 years.

The Age Better in Sheffield team are doing some amazing work, in partnership with Dr Sharron Hinchliff from the University of Sheffield, championing sexual rights and freedom for Sheffield’s over 50s. There is a large stigma around older people partaking in sexual activity which needs to be busted, life doesn’t stop once you reach the age of 50, so naturally, neither does sex. No one should ever be made to feel ashamed about being sexually active, whether that be by a doctor or by society as a whole.

I grew up in a small village not far from Birmingham which was largely populated by over 50s. There seems to be an expectation that once you reach a certain age, you have to give up anything exciting that life has to offer and have to move to a small rural dwelling in the countryside. But why can’t they belong in the city, why should they have to leave cities they love, their homes? City life should be accessible and inclusive for everyone, regardless of their age. The work happening at Age Better in Sheffield is so vitally important because cities need to be adapted to cater to this ever growing section of our population.

My role in the programme is to be a roving reporter, gathering the voices of 100 Sheffield residents, from young to old, about their opinions on Sheffield and how Age-Friendly they believe it is. One of the exciting activities lined up will be setting up a blackboard in Graves park with colourful chalks and asking children to draw their favourite part of Sheffield. I will also be visiting a few of the South Yorkshire Housing Association extra-care schemes and discussing with older people, over a cup of tea, their experiences of being older in the city. One thing that has taken me aback about this initiative is Age Better in Sheffield’s commitment to collaborative work and involving the voice of the people in Sheffield in everything they do.

Working as a part of this initiative I have learnt so much about what it means to be Age-Friendly and how vital the work being done here is. Our population is ageing and older people who live in cities deserve to be able to be able to do so comfortably. I’m so excited and honoured to be a part of this amazing programme and can definitely say that I will be seeing everything through an Age-Friendly lens from now onwards, as everyone should. We should all be committed to making our wonderful city a better place to grow older in.