Friday 16 September 2016, 12:07 | By

In the News September 2016: The race for healthier cities

CSL In The News


Recently, we have seen more and more articles on the impact city planning has on our lives. This follows the 2010 WHO campaign highlighting urban planning as a crucial link to building a healthy 21st century, and more recent calls to make cities suited to our ageing populations.

This is just the tip of the iceberg of course, but drives like these resonate with the work we also do as the Agile Ageing Alliance – in particular a European Commission-backed initiative for more age-friendly homes taking place across Europe right now.

Before you learn about that however, let’s take a quick look at this month’s best stories about creative ways to help those with long-term and life-limiting conditions. Starting with… city planning.

Are cities good for our mental health?

This recent Guardian article focused on the effect poor city planning can have on our mental health. It leads with a statistic that by 2050, two-thirds of the world’s population is expected to live in cities, leading its author to conclude that: “the relationship between urban environments and mental health – and what to do about it – is rapidly coming to the fore.”

The article also cites Layla McCay, founder and director of the Centre for Urban Development and Mental Health, who says that: “Public health is an important component of the built environment, but all too often this focuses only on physical health. Mental health plays a huge role in the overall burden of disease around the entire world. The statistics do tell us that people who live in cities have a 40% increased risk of depression, a 20% increased risk of anxiety and double the risk of schizophrenia.”

We think this focus on city planning and our health is going to get even further traction after a recent study claimed that pollution is encouraging Alzheimer’s. Although the NHS Choices assessment of the study suggests it’s too early to say if the results can be proven conclusively, it’s clear more attention is being placed on where we live and the impact it has on our health in the long term.

Tackling dementia – Manchester heads to the pub

One city definitely taking the initiative on issues affecting its citizens, is Manchester. There, a new partnership made possible by the devolution of health and social care to the city, plans by 2020 to make the city the; “best place in the world for its 30,000 residents with Alzheimer’s and similar conditions.”

Called Dementia United, this article from the Guardian about the scheme focuses on one of its early-wins, a ‘pop-up pub’ designed for people with dementia where; “people with the diagnosis can feel welcome and those who look after them can receive support.”

But as Maxine Power, director of Dementia United, says: “Dementia United goes way beyond pubs. It is about rejecting a model of care that health professionals agree is neither fit for purpose nor financially viable, and the opportunity to create a new one.”

Initiatives like this show that by giving local people the power to solve local problems, we stand a better chance of allowing individuals to find solutions to life-limiting conditions that can shared nationally, and maybe even globally. Trust the Brits to ensure it involves a pub.

You make me feel like dancing

Speaking of innovative individuals, this recent story from the BBC caught our eye about some of the new tech helping those with physical impairments do activities many take for granted, such as dancing or running.

One piece was the ‘SubPac’, which according to the article; “is widely used in the music world to help music producers feel the music without damaging their ears”. Now it’s also helping people like choreographer Chris Fonseca, who having become deaf when he was younger, now uses the SubPac to help other deaf dancers; “feel the music so they can learn his choreography with ease.”

Another new piece was an app created by visually impaired ultra-marathon runner Simon Wheatcroft and IBM, using sensors and satellite navigation to help him run solo across the Namibian desert.

It’s really inspiring to meet these individuals. People who refuse to be restricted by their health challenges, instead creating revolutionary solutions which can go on to help others around the world. Hopefully by sharing their stories, we can continue their work.

Out and about – whatever your mode of transport

Talking of raising awareness, quadriplegic ‘cyclist and birder’ Ian Mackay wants more people like him to be able to enjoy the great outdoors. To do so, he travelled 300 miles across his home state of Portland, Oregon to highlight the need for more accessible trails and bike paths.

According to this article in Mashable he said; “Me and my other paralyzed brothers that live in the greater Washington area — many of us don’t have the luxury of having access to beautiful trails or easy to access paths. Much of the time, we are stuck on the sides of roads and highways — and we don’t want to be at risk on the shoulder riding next to big rigs.”

You can learn more about his journey at his website, Ian’s Ride, but it’s amazing to hear about people like Ian who don’t accept the status quo and making sure to point out that it’s not just people living in cities who need better planning to help us live healthy and integrated lives.

That’s all for now, but until next month’s CSL news review make sure to join us on Twitter where we share all the great and inspiring stories we see on our travels. And if you would like to join the conversation in the exciting and dynamic world of the Agile Ageing Alliance, then why not join our LinkedIn group today?