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By Beth Mitchell and Eve Holt | 01 October 2021 | TAGS: Active travel, Older adults, Eve Holt, Beth Mitchell

Supporting people to participate in active travel is a key priority for Greater Manchester, this is essential to the physical and mental wellbeing of those living in Greater Manchester, to reducing the impact we are having on our planet and to creating better places to live, work and play. The 2040 target is for walking trips to increase by a third and cycling trips to double and then double again.

In Greater Manchester, around 250 million of the car journeys we make a year are less than one kilometre, which is the equivalent to a 15-minute walk or a five-minute bike ride. Work has been underway since 2018, to make Greater Manchester ‘a great place to walk and cycle’. Led by the Transport Commissioner for Greater Manchester, Chris Boardman, TfGM and Greater Manchester partners have been working to deliver ‘the UK’s largest cycling and walking network, making it safe and attractive for people to travel on foot or by bike for everyday trips.’

Why Over 50s?

Levels of physical activity and of active travel drop off rapidly with age. Supporting people to get about in an active way is a great way to design moving into people’s lives whilst also boosting their levels of independence and their social and economic inclusion. Adding life to years and years to life. As well as protecting life on the planet for future generations.

Boosting active travel for over 50s in Greater Manchester can make a real contribution to addressing the health inequalities we’ve seen so starkly exposed and exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic. The potential for change is massive, for example, in the UK the percentage of trips cycled steadily decline for women and men over the age of 50. In contrast, in cycle-friendly Netherlands, the percentage of trips cycled increase for both women and men between the ages 50-70.

Supporting a transformational growth in active travel for all, to include over 50s, is therefore a key commitment in our new Greater Manchester whole system strategy for physical activity, ‘GM Moving in Action.’ Making active travel the natural choice for as many short trips as possible across the life course, through supporting population level behaviour change, system change and culture change, is critical to achieving our goal of Active Lives for all and Good Lives for all. This needs to be for all generations, by all generations.

So what are we doing and what do we aim to achieve?

Recognising the need and opportunity to do more, in June 2020 we convened an Active Travel and Over 50s Steering Group. The group brought together a number of GM partners including GreaterSport, Transport for Greater Manchester, The Greater Manchester Ageing Hub, The Centre for Ageing Better and The University of Manchester.

The purpose of the group was to consider opportunities to increase levels of participation in active travel among people in mid and later life, to pull together the existing evidence base, to identify key gaps and barriers and understand what more we could do.

Our approach

  • To build on current strengths in GM and the positive momentum and focus on active travel that emerged during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Recognising older residents as citizens and helping to moving the narrative from vulnerable to valuable.
  • Understanding over 50’s in all their diversity and the intersecting demographic, spatial and socio-economic inequalities and prejudices they experience.
  • Taking a whole-system approach, that acknowledges the disparate and multiple nature of factors that influence peoples’ active travel habits, reflecting our GM Moving evidence-base and approach more broadly, as captured in this GM Moving animation on working in complex systems.
  • Designing in active travel as part of an inclusive integrated transport network

As a Steering Group we will be publishing a full report, with our key learnings and recommendations to include:

  • Evidence review and context to this work
  • Key research gaps
  • Priorities and potential measures of progress, working across all layers of the system

We will be sharing the full report next week but in the meantime, you can read the summary report here.

This work has drawn on and fed into work being undertaken nationally by our strategic partner, the Centre for Ageing Better, to include the report they commissioned on ‘Active Travel and mid-life: understanding the barriers and enables to active travel’ and a further report they have commissioned which is due to be published on the 4th October 2021.

For further details on this work or to see how you can get involved, please contact Beth Mitchell, Active Ageing lead at GreaterSport and Eve Holt, Strategic Director for GM Moving and GreaterSport.

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