The creation of age-friendly neighbourhoods to meet both the physical and social needs of older people will be supported by a new urban development guide for Greater Manchester.

The guide outlines how the region can adapt to an ageing population in designing and building new residential developments.

Ideas include intergenerational playgrounds, buddy benches, easier navigation for people with dementia and boosting a sense of security through design.

The urban development guide – Creating Age-Friendly Developments – has been created by researchers from Manchester Metropolitan University with the GM Housing Planning and Ageing group (GMHPA), a multi-agency partnership brought together by the Greater Manchester Combined Authority’s GM Ageing Hub.

It will be used as a series of recommendations to help guide planners, policymakers, architects, and developers to create age-friendly developments.

Report co-author Dr Mark Hammond, Senior Lecturer from the University’s Manchester School of Architecture (MSA), said: “Our growing and increasingly diverse older population offers significant opportunities for innovation in the housing sector. While specialist housing including extra-care or retirement villages might be part of the mix, the aim of the work I have been doing with the GM Ageing Hub has been around mainstreaming ageing within residential development, recognising that all new housing should be age-inclusive.

“This guide aims to provide clearer steps for planners, developers and designers to fulfil these aims, but we also hope it will encourage more people to join the growing community of practice we have between policymakers, academics and professionals around housing and ageing in Greater Manchester.”

Councillor Arooj Shah, GMCA lead for Equalities and Communities, added: "As our population across Greater Manchester, and nationally, is ageing rapidly, it’s so important that our homes and communities reflect these changes and are fit for the future.

“This means making sure new neighbourhoods are accessible, welcoming, and built with the needs of older people and their families in mind. That’s why, here in Greater Manchester, we’re putting this new guide in place, to set out the practical considerations planners, architects and housebuilders should consider when creating new developments.

"I’m also pleased that we’re using the academic excellence right here in our region to drive new and innovative policy changes that will make real, practical, differences to people’s lives.”

The guide builds in a range of aspirations of older people rather than simply focusing on issues of physical accessibility, and highlights opportunities for wellbeing, physical activity, and socialisation in the home and wider neighbourhood.

Illustration from the urban development guide – Creating Age-Friendly Developments (Image: Pozzoni Architecture)

This could include intergenerational playgrounds that recognise the role many older people have in caring for grandchildren and the physical and wellbeing benefits from play, measures to reduce negative noise impacts in the home for those with sensory issues or living with dementia, and the inclusion of social seating to help combat loneliness.

The new guide, which will be rolled out across Greater Manchester, has been co-authored by Dr Mark Hammond, and Kelly-Marie Rodgers, Strategic Lead - Healthy Active Places at GM Moving, in collaboration with the GM Housing Planning and Ageing group (GMHPA).

The GMHPA is a multi-agency partnership convened by the GM Ageing Hub at the GMCA which Dr Hammond helped to establish during his two-year secondment at GMCA with the aim of improving the quality and quantity of age-inclusive housing across the region.

The guide builds on more than a decade of policy and practice engaged research from the Design for Life research group at MSA, led by Prof Stefan White and Dr Hammond.

This includes practitioner-focused guides such as A Design for Life which outlines examples of best practice around ageing and design, policy-engaged research such as the Finding The Right Place To Grow Older report calling for more responsive housing choices, research-based design consultancy to support regeneration plans, including the North Manchester General Hospital redevelopment, and on-the-ground participatory research programmes such as the Ageing In Place Pathfinder in partnership with GMCA.

Creating Age-Friendly Developments was launched at a public event at the People’s History Museum where 70 property developers, residential development stakeholders and policymakers attended.

The guide has already been adopted by residential developer and operator Picture This who have started to implement this within their planning and design teams who are working on their latest developments.  

Shannon Conway, Co–Founder at Picture This and member of GM Housing, Planning and Ageing Group, said: “The document provides a straightforward guide to how age-friendly principles can be incorporated throughout our Picture This developments. For an upcoming scheme in Stockport town centre, we worked through the guide with our planning and design teams. Not only were the ideas and suggestions within the guide useful, it also prompted more thoughts on how our developments can be made more inclusive." 

The guide builds on existing Greater Manchester policy initiatives and the research team hope that it will resonate with policy makers and professionals both locally and nationally.