Our vision is to be a leader in creating a healthy and equitable European city

Healthy Cities 21st Century

Belfast Healthy Cities Report on Walking Belfast: Older People's Views

A report on developing a Walking Assessment Tool for older people was launched on Friday at the City Hall by Belfast Healthy Cities, the World Health Organization (WHO) body in Northern Ireland.

The launch of ‘Walking Belfast: Older People’s Views’, which forms part of Belfast Healthy Cities’ work on Healthy Urban Environments and Age-friendly Cities, coincided with WHO International Day of Older Persons.

In compiling the report Belfast Healthy Cities engaged local older people to assess the walking environment in their area, using a tool developed following a review of relevant models and literature.

Friday’s launch in the Lord Mayor’s Parlour highlighted priority elements identified by older people as essential for an environment that encourages and supports them to remain active.

Among the key findings was that older people – who form a significant proportion of the population in Belfast – do most of their walking in their local communities. Therefore it is essential that the built environment is accessible and supports walking for all levels of mobility. Recommendations include more dropped pavements, a reduction in dog fouling and, crucially, that older people must be engaged in local policy and decision making in regard to the design of the city.

It also found that an accessible built environment will support the needs of older people, anyone with mobility issues and anyone using a wheelchair or pram.

Joan Devlin, Chief Executive, Belfast Healthy Cities, said:

“WHO Healthy Cities emphasize that being able to walk for every day journeys helps people to stay healthier for longer.

“The WHO Healthy Cities’ approach also emphasizes that people of all ages need to have a voice in decision making, to achieve effective and sustainable solutions.

“This tool offers a model to systematically engage older people in decision making and also to identify solutions to test as part of future planning.”

The launch of the report was addressed by Lord Mayor Brian Kingston, who said: “‘Belfast was the first city in Northern Ireland to join the World Health Organization's Global Network of Age-friendly Cities. An age-friendly city is one in which organisations work together to make sure the quality of life for people is enhanced as they age. Seeking older people’s views and engaging older people in decision making is valuable and essential to create an environment that supports all age groups.’