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Older Londoners Dialogue With Decision Makers

09 July 2014

What has changed for older Londoners since the 2012 Mayoral Election? Our event with the Deputy Mayor gave older people in the capital the chance to find out.

On 3 July Age UK London and Positive Ageing in London hosted a discussion with Munira Mirza, Deputy Mayor for Culture and Education (also responsible for Equalities) and Elaine Seagriff, Head of Londonwide Policy and Strategy, Transport for London. Both of these leading figures presented the changes they thought had taken place for older Londoners since May 2012, and responded to older Londoners’ numerous questions and comments. The discussion was prefaced by Gordon Deuchars (Age UK London) reminding the meeting of what the Mayor and other candidates had been asked to do in the Age UK London's 'Older People’s Manifesto 2012-16.'




Munira Mirza started by celebrating the fact that London is getting older, with older Londoners providing a vast reservoir of wisdom and talent. She outlined Mayoral initiatives in areas including transport, policing, housing, street design and the public realm, volunteering and employment, and combating age stereotypes. Highlights included:


- Introducing the Mayor’s 60+ London Oyster photocard in addition to the Freedom Pass 

- Publishing the GLA’s report on 'The Economic Contribution of Older Londoners'  

- Pushing for Lifetime Homes and Lifetime Neighbourhoods through the London Housing Strategy

- Mayor's Know Your Rights campaign in partnership with Age UK London and other organisations to encourage Londoners to take up benefits they’re entitled to


Older people’s questions and comments included: What about promoting lifelong learning for older people? How did closures of Tube ticket offices and fire stations square with making London safer for older people and others? Employment: many people aged 50+ don’t know about official employment support programmes although in principle they could benefit from them. There were several questions on street safety, including from one person who had fallen nine times because of badly surfaced pavements. Digital inclusion for older people was also raised as an area where the Mayor could do more. Not all of the questions were specifically about older people: one participant raised the difficulty of refugees in getting National Insurance numbers and therefore accessing benefits.


The Deputy Mayor responded to these points and others. One key discussion was around safety: Munira pointed out that the closure of Tube ticket offices was intended to make more staff available and visible in the stations to help travellers, and that the fire service thinks that response times will be maintained despite station closures.


Elaine Seagriff spoke about the many initiatives Transport for London has been taking to improve accessibility and passenger experience. These ranged from the bus driver training film 'All Aboard' made in partnership with Age UK London and Transport for All, to moves to ensure sufficient accessible transport in new developments and promoting research on accessibility. Elaine’s presentation will soon be available from Age UK London.


Participants raised a number of issues which Elaine and her team responded to. Accessibility and layout at different stations were discussed. It was pointed out that increasing step free access in places like Harrow depends on TfL receiving additional funding for this. Obstructive clutter in some pedestrian areas, for example around stations, was linked to who owns particular pieces of land, but the TfL team urged people to report problems to TfL who would discuss them with the local authority or owner. The distance people have to walk at some stations was also pointed out. 


Participants also asked for a limit to the size of buggies carried on buses: TfL is talking to buggy manufacturers to try to find a solution. There was also a discussion about jaywalking and what could be done about it.


Finally, surprise  was expressed about published customer satisfaction figures for Dial-a-Ride given issues participants were aware of.


While inevitably not everyone was satisfied with the steps taken to address the different issues raised, it was good to see decision-makers and officials taking part in this dialogue and we plan to hold similar sessions in future.


Gordon Deuchars