Forschungs- & Entwicklungsinformationsdienst der Gemeinschaft - CORDIS

Final Report Summary - AGE-FRIENDLY (Promoting Active Ageing: Developing Age-Friendly Cities)


The Challenge

By 2030, sixty percent of the global population will be living in cities, with at least a quarter of city dwellers aged sixty or over. The needs and requirements of this age group will become an increasingly significant aspect of social and public policy, both in terms of design and delivery. Whilst progress has been made in identifying key ‘age-friendly’ interventions, older people have rarely been central to their development.

The Research

The project focuses on the role of neighbourhoods in contributing to what the World Health Organisation (WHO) terms ‘active ageing’, defined as continued participation in all aspects of social, economic, cultural, spiritual and civic life. The project has two main aims:

1) To identify the issues older residents themselves view as important in developing the age-friendliness of their neighbourhood.
2) To involve older people, not only as the research target group, but also as experts and actors in the planning, design, development and implementation of the study.

A socially and ethnically diverse group of eighteen older residents, aged between fifty-eight and seventy-
four, were trained as co-investigators.
 The purpose of the training sessions was to ensure that every co-researcher had a thorough understanding of the different phases involved in conducting a participatory research project. The training provided an overview of the different components of the research process, such as designing the research materials, interviewing techniques, data analysis and translating findings into practice.
The co-researchers conducted sixty-eight interviews, across three neighbourhoods in South Manchester, with older people who were experiencing social exclusion, isolation, poverty or health problems. The interviews focused on ways of improving the quality of life for older people living in urban communities.

Working with targeted groups in the three neighbourhoods, three key features shaped this research:

- Participation: Older residents act as co-investigators at all stages of the process, including planning, design and implementation.
- Collaboration: A range of partners – local government, third sector, NGOs – act as advisors, contributing via focus groups, interviews and ongoing partnership work.
- Action: Recommendations have been generated for urban design, regeneration, community engagement and policy implementation. This has resulted in insights from the work being fed directly into social programmes and initiatives, within the UK and beyond.


As a result of the research, important principles have been established in terms of promoting age-friendly neighbourhoods:

- First, they must provide a mechanism for empowering older people and ensuring broad social participation. 

- Second, they are a reminder of the importance of ‘citizen rights’ in terms of ensuring full and active use of a city’s resources and services. 

- Third, they affirm the importance of recognising the multi-layered nature of the urban environment, where social and physical constraints affect the lives of older people in a variety of ways. 

The project represents a significant advance in research methodology by developing new models of community engagement working with vulnerable groups of older people in research. Crucially, it contributes to re-thinking public policy in relation to age-friendly cities, drawing on the direct involvement of older people themselves.


The project has received various accolades, including winning the "Making a Difference through Research Award" at the 2015 University of Manchester Social Responsibility Awards. The project resulted in a Guide to Working with Older People as Co-Researchers [ISBN: 978-0-9576682-2-5] and a short film which have been mentioned as best practice examples, and promoted by the United Nations, WHO and Age Platform Europe. To date, the film has received over 2.450 views on YouTube.

The work has attracted interest from the World Health Organization (WHO) – pioneers of the age- friendly cities agenda – and a number of key UK and European policy actors. Results from this project have been presented at:

- The United Nations
, working group on Demographic Ageing, Headquarters New York
- Age UK

- Age Platform Europe

- The UK Network of Age-friendly Cities 

- The International Network of Population Ageing and Urbanisation (INPAU)

The outcomes of this work also play a direct role in the development of Manchester city’s plans for developing age-friendly neighbourhoods. The outputs will also be used by community groups developing projects under the Big Lottery funded Ambition for Ageing programme, which has a particular focus on targeting older people at risk of problems associated with social isolation. This is a national programme of which the Greater Manchester strand (£10 million) is the largest but other urban authorities across the UK will also be interested in using the results from the project to develop their own activities with older people and organisations working on their behalf.

Finally, through developing new collaborative partnerships, the project has inspired innovative approaches to engaging older residents as leaders and visionaries in developing the age-friendly agenda. The co-researchers have now formed a permanent group and will be applying for funding for age-friendly initiatives.

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