A new Christmas Markets initiative is set to take the weight of people’s feet – and minds – if age or any physical condition means that walking around the markets is difficult.
Now, priority seats are on standby in a reserved area within the nearby rates hall, so that anyone needing to, can go inside, sit down and take a break for as long as they need to.
The move comes as the councils and the city’s NHS commissioners work even closer together to create a healthier city – including how to make it more age-friendly, while tackling problems around loneliness and isolation.
Recently, a group game grannies donned cameras – dubbed ‘Grannycam’ - as they took part in a ‘street beat’ exercise – where their footage showed in real time what it’s like to navigate busy areas or other obstacles in the city.
The filming also comes at a time when a recent budget survey showed that our residents rated looking after the vulnerable or older people as some of their top priorities.
Today’s news will see reserved seats in the rates hall, in the town hall extension, next to a disabled access from the Mount Street entrance (by the Post Office). The seats will operate on a goodwill basis with signs, like priority seating on public transport, and will be available on week days.
City Centre chief, Cllr Pat Karney, said: “This is a city that listens to the people who live here and acts on it – we call this the Our Manchester approach. We want everyone to be able to enjoy the Christmas markets, no matter what their age and often it’s the smaller details that make a big difference.
“We already have seating on offer on the markets, but the difference now is that we have additional specially reserved indoor seats that will be kept free for older people or those with a physical need. In past years the markets have attracted up to 9 million visitors and we want to keep building on that reputation."
Simon Katzenellenbogen, 77, from Didsbury , who took part in the work, said: “We don’t just want to point out the issues – we want to be part of the solution - and I just hope that people will leave the seats free so that they are available for those who need them."
Elaine Unegbu, 75, from Chorlton, said: "This is really encouraging and it means you feel more confident about going out on trips."
In Manchester approximately ten per cent of the population are aged 65 or older, and it is predicted that this figure will double by 2050. It is also thought that around one in five GP appointments are linked to loneliness.
Recent research published by lobbying group Campaign to End Loneliness cites research showing that lacking social connections is as damaging to our health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Their previous national survey revealed that three quarters of family doctors reported that one in five patients a day attend their surgery primarily because they are lonely.
Councillor Paul Andrews, Executive Member for Adult Health and Wellbeing at Manchester City Council, said: “Our city has been designated as an Age-Friendly city – but we are not complacent – we know we can, and should, always look for ways to make sure that all generations can enjoy what the city has to offer.”
Dr Mike Eeckelaers, speaking on behalf of the three NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups working with the council, said: “There are major mental and physical health benefits with staying active and engaged as we grow older. For example we know that loneliness is associated with an increased risk of developing heart disease, stroke and the risk of higher blood pressure. It can also contribute to a higher incidence of falls."