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“You Really Do Become Invisible”: Examining Older Adults’ Right to the City in the United Kingdom

Menezes, Deborah, Woolrych, Ryan, Sixsmith, Judith, Makita, Meiko, Smith, Harry, Fisher, Jennifer ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-9179-3485, Garcia-Ferrari, Soledad, Lawthom, Rebecca, Henderson, James and Murray, Michael (2021) “You Really Do Become Invisible”: Examining Older Adults’ Right to the City in the United Kingdom. Ageing and Society. ISSN 0144-686X

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Abstract

A global ageing population presents opportunities and challenges to designing urban environments that support ageing in place. The World Health Organization's Global Age-Friendly Cities movement has identified the need to develop communities that optimise health, participation and security in order to enhance quality of life as people age. Ensuring that age-friendly urban environments create the conditions for active ageing requires cities and communities to support older adults’ rights to access and move around the city (‘appropriation’) and for them to be actively involved in the transformation (‘making and remaking’) of the city. These opportunities raise important questions: What are older adults’ everyday experiences in exercising their rights to the city? What are the challenges and opportunities in supporting a rights to the city approach? How can the delivery of age-friendly cities support rights to the city for older adults? This paper aims to respond to these questions by examining the lived experiences of older adults across three cities and nine neighbourhoods in the United Kingdom. Drawing on 104 semi-structured interviews with older adults between the ages of 51 and 94, the discussion centres on the themes of: right to use urban space; respect and visibility; and the right to participate in planning and decision-making. These themes are illustrated as areas in which older adults’ rights to access and shape urban environments need to be addressed, along with recommendations for age-friendly cities that support a rights-based approach.

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