RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2014

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30 Urban and Suburban Geographies of Ageing (1)
Affiliation Urban Geography Research Group
Geography of Health Research Group
Convenor(s) Debbie Lager (University of Groningen, The Netherlands)
Chiara Negrini (Kingston University, UK)
Bettina van Hoven (University of Groningen, The Netherlands)
Tim Schwanen (University of Oxford, UK)
Chair(s) Debbie Lager (University of Groningen, The Netherlands)
Tim Schwanen (University of Oxford, UK)
Timetable Wednesday 27 August 2014, Session 1 (09:00 - 10:40)
Room Sherfield Building, Room 9
Session abstract We seek to organise two sessions to explore the relationships of older people and ageing with place, with a particular focus on urban and suburban environments. Up till now, research in the field of ageing and place has been dominated by social and environmental gerontologists. Recently, Schwanen et al. (2012) advocated a more ‘sustained engagement’ with ageing from geographers in order to draw attention to the different spatial configurations of old age and the socio-spatial inequalities in later life. These socio-spatial inequalities stem from a complex interplay of the social and material environment and the biological and psychological aspects of the ageing body (see e.g. Ziegler, 2012). Research on ageing in urban environments has highlighted the exclusionary processes to which older adults can be subjected, such as the obstacles for everyday mobility and the challenges of everyday life in deprived urban neighbourhoods (see e.g. Smith, 2009; Buffel, 2013). However, it has also been acknowledged that older people can make active and important contributions to their community and can make their (urban) neighbourhood and home into a place that evokes positive experiences and attachments.
Arguably, however, the vast majority of older people in the near future will age-in-place in suburban areas rather than live in densely populated urban centres. Whilst historically not developed for older people, suburban areas are now being (re)designed and (re)organised to meet the material and social needs of their older residents (e.g., through the implementation of integrated service areas – ISAs). Given the policy relevance of this trend, further research is needed with regard to how ageing-in-place in suburban neighbourhoods is experienced and what the socio-spatial implications of these environments are for its older population.
We encourage papers that investigate the multiple relationships between ageing and the urban and suburban environment, with particular attention to:
• Intersections of age with gender, ethnicity, class, sexual orientation and other forms of social identification and exclusionary processes related to these intersections;
• Theoretical advancement within the field of ‘geographies of ageing’;
• Participatory methodologies and ethical considerations relating to this type of research;
• Contributions of older people to their local community;
• Meanings, experiences and emotions related to ageing-in-place;
• Planning processes that make cities and suburbs more age-friendly and the role of older people herein.

Linked Sessions Urban and Suburban Geographies of Ageing (2)
Contact the conference organisers to request a change to session or paper details: AC2014@rgs.org
From care to consumer: spaces of dependency and choice
Judith Phillips (Swansea University, UK)
Nigel Walford (Kingston University, UK)
Ann Hockey (Anglia Ruskin University, UK)
Influenced by US scholarship and in particular the work of Powell-Lawton theoretical approaches to the 'geography of ageing' have been shaped primarily by psychologists with the 'person-environment fit' underpinning work across disciplines and professional discourses on the environment of ageing. Although other approaches have been used within gerontology, for example, a critical ecological approach, few scholars have challenged or critiqued the dominant concept/paradigm and numerous empirical studies of particular spaces (rural/urban) and places (cities); home and community; residential care; public urban space have accepted this theoretical framework as a reference point. Even though new concepts are being developed eg age friendly cities; liveability. many lack any theoretical framework and ignore an interrogation of the spatial perspective/conceptualisation (inc. the use of space and meaning of place, distance, time).
This paper aims to (1) evaluate existing theoretical approaches to the 'geography of ageing' using a spatial lens; (2) explore the extent to which the existing theoretical paradigms discriminate against older people and neglect the wider environments in which older people live their everyday lives (suburban and retail) which can lead to more nuanced understanding of ageing and (3) propose alternative theoretical lens from emerging literatures on, for example, spaces of consumption that provide a reframing of the 'geographies of age' from one of 'care dependencies' to 'consumer lifestyles' and open up opportunities for a more positive view of ageing in the 21st century.
Neither fish nor fowl- conflicting discourses around the use of mobility scooters among an ageing population in UK cities
Friederike Ziegler (The University of Sheffield, UK)
It is estimated that there are currently over 300,000 mobility scooters in use in the UK with a sharp increase expected over the coming years as the population ages and remains living independently in their own homes. Scooters enable independent and active ageing but are legally termed ‘invalid carriages’. Most scooters are battery-driven vehicles designed to replace walking locally as a mode of travel and users are therefore required to ride on pavements. Scooters are a ‘godsend’ for many older and disabled people, but increasingly media reports comment on the challenges involved in sharing public spaces between pedestrians, scooter users and others. In this paper I discuss some of the tensions arising from the conflicting discourses around mobility scooters in policy, commerce, research and the media, as well as among charitable organisations and scooter users themselves. I argue that the lack of a coherent narrative stems from contradictory discourses and blurred boundaries between active and independent ageing and disabled mobilities. There is evidence that the resulting conflicts may lead to the increasing stigmatisation and exclusion of disabled older people. I conclude that transport and local planners need to act decisively in order to positively influence the increasing impact of scooters in our cities and towns whilst at the same time enabling independent ageing through increasing accessibility.
Active ageing in place: The role of urban design in facilitating life-long mobility
Emma Street (University of Reading, UK)
Philip Black (University of Reading, UK)
Maintaining a degree of independence over personal mobility choices is one factor in sustaining positive engagement with (sub)urban environments into older age. Across much of the global north, policy makers are embracing concepts such as active ageing as they seek policy ‘solutions’ to the issues raised by ageing populations. Relatedly, there is increasing interest in extending sustainable transport options, including cycling, to older populations. This paper seeks to build understanding of what effect factors such as the quality of the built environment, and personal perceptions of risk, safety and pleasure have in older people’s experiences of mobility. It develops the idea of active ageing in place, focusing on the role that urban design may play in influencing older peoples’ engagement in cycling activities as part of the lifelong enjoyment of (sub)urban environments. We suggest that urban design has the potential to impact mobile choices and behaviors through the development of enjoyment and increased human engagement with urban quality. Such an approach requires policy makers to ask how the urban environment can be scaled to positively impact upon cyclists, and elevates the quality and satisfaction of the journey alongside more traditional factors such as convenience and speed.
Im(mobility) of elderly fallers in the urban environment
Angela Curl (University of Glasgow, UK)
Catharine Ward Thompson (The University of Edinburgh, UK)
An individual’s relationship with the environment changes over the life course and it is to be expected that different obstacles and challenges will affect an ageing population at different stages. This paper discussed this relationship for a specific population: elderly people who have experienced a fall outdoors. We draw on data collected during ‘go-along’ interviews with adults who had recently fallen over, as part of a project to develop an environmental audit tool sensitive to the needs of older adults. Falls account for a large proportion of hospital admissions, but the subsequent effect of such a trauma on an individual’s relationship with their environment should also be considered.
The ‘go-along’ method combines ethnographic participant observation with interviewing (Carpiano, 2009) and was used to gain the perspectives of older people who have fallen over, on their experiences. We used GPS and voice recorded the walk-alongs so that we could interpret what people said at particular locations and visualise the environment either through photographs taken on site or using google earth post-hoc, thus grounding the interviews in the environment (Carpiano, 2009).
A range of both environmental and individual factors were identified, both as having contributed to the initial fall and subsequently in how participants perceived going outdoors. Alongside obstacles in the environment were associated issues of embarrassment, fear and reduced confidence, among others. Participants discussed the decisions they made about which way to go or how to negotiate a certain environment, which may have changed since falling over, e.g. choosing a steeper route with less leaves or a longer way around to avoid steps or a busy road. The relationship between an ageing population and the environment is heightened for those with restricted mobility, particularly those affected by an event such as a fall. The ultimate aim of the environment audit tool is to assist therapists in supporting older people to maintain outdoor activity.
Ageing people - ageing places. Preparing for old age in urban and suburban Flanders, Belgium - an exploration
Elise Schillebeeck (University of Antwerp / University of Leuven, Belgium)
Pascal De Decker (Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium)
Bruno Meeus (KU Leuven, Belgium)
Stijn Oosterlynck (University of Antwerp, Belgium)
The Belgium planning office estimates that the Belgian population older than 60 years will rise from approximately 3,043,000 in 2010 to 4,693,000 in 2050, or an increase with more than 50%. It is also estimated that the number of dependent elderly (60+) will more than double over that period: from 143,000 to 237,000 (Van Damme, 2010). Together with the challenge of affordability of the pension and care systems, the question arises where one should live when (very) old and less mobile. For a region like Flanders this question is relevant for two reasons. First, in Flanders, being a community of homeowners, the government promotes ageing-in-place instead of the development of more collective and sustainable alternatives. Research (although scarce) is showing that a large majority of these private owned houses are not (or no longer) fit for old people. The second reason has to do with the specific spatial layout of the region. Flanders is dominated by sprawl causing many families to depend on their car for even basic services like groceries, bakeries and butchers. Problems occur when people get older and (car) mobility diminishes. The consequence is an increasing demand on home care services. Using qualitative data of more than 100 in-depth interviews in the urban and suburban region of Ghent, we report in this paper on how pre-retirees in different residential environments foresee their ‘housing life’ at old age.