As part of the Age Friendly Leeds initiative, Callum Smith, Policy and Public Affairs Officer at the Northern Housing Consortium, attended a ‘Play with the City’ seminar hosted in conjunction with Leeds City Council. The seminar aimed to challenge the way people think about designing cities for older people through the most unusual of methods: Lego.
The idea behind using Lego to visualise and realise designs is part of the ‘serious play’ movement where participants are challenged to be a literal or as figurative as possible using the Lego block provided while working to a goal (in this case, an individual component of older people friendly city). Each participant is given the same number and shapes of Lego and encouraged to be as straight forward or as creative as they like (you can see Callum’s attempt below).
Key points that emerged from the seminar were the need for:
- accessibility: even something as simple as a lowered curb; city streets with traffic calming measures or an accredited city-wide system showing a business is ‘older people friendly’
- desirability: older people’s accommodation should look and feel desirable, it should avoid feeling institutionalised and seek to be smart and well-designed
- cross-generational: older people shouldn’t feel excluded; cities should encourage interaction between young and old through volunteering opportunities
- connected: whether via local authority or community-run volunteer-staffed bus routes to digital technologies connecting older people to loved ones or care and support services
- space: spacious in the home (wide doorways, hallways) and spacious in the city (preserve green areas, remove street clutter, extend pavements)
- coordination: housing associations, councils, transport authorities, city planners must work in harmony; it was agreed the devolution agenda presents a significant opportunity for this