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The study of urban ageing brings together two of the most important social changes of our time: population ageing and urbanisation. Over the next few decades, we are going to see rapid growth in the numbers of people living into older ages. At the same time, cities are growing and adapting to climate change, economic pressures and the effects of globalisation. As cities are seeing the impact of these changes on housing, transport, employment, technology, health services, social spaces and on how people interact with each other, the domains of the Age-Friendly Cities and Communities Framework remain a relevant focus point for the study of urban ageing.

Over the 2021/22 academic year, the Manchester Urban Ageing Research Group (MUARG) hosted a number of Conversations that explored current thinking on themes and topics relevant to urban ageing. A range of international, multidisciplinary speakers came together to share critical perspectives on topics ranging from co-production to spatial justice. These Conversations have now been released as podcasts and are available from the MUARG website, or Spotify.

In the first podcast, Liesbeth de Donder from Vrije Universiteit Brussel and Mo Ray from the University of Lincoln discuss interdisciplinary co-creation and new ways of working with co-production in research. As stated by Liesbeth, ‘if you really want a co-created research project, the co-researchers should be involved in all steps from the beginning to the end, and that is difficult’. Over the course of the podcast, Mo and Liesbeth have an engaging conversation about the challenges, ethics and practicalities of delivering co-produced research with older people.

In our second podcast, Sophie Yarker from the University of Manchester talks about her book, Creating Spaces for an Ageing Society with Paul McGarry from the Greater Manchester Combined Authority. In a time of cuts and austerity, Sophie advocates for the necessity of social infrastructure: ‘Especially for older people, social infrastructure spaces are about having social connection, but they’re also about having spaces where they can be seen in their communities, physically be present in their community, and then that hopefully can develop with support to being able to have a voice in their communities.’

The third podcast brought together Sheila Peace from the Open University and Jarmin Yeh from the University of California, San Francisco. Sheila and Jarmin shared their views on spatial justice and discussed the meaning of places and spaces to older people. Both experts in the use of urban spaces, Sheila says that ‘spatial justice shows us different kinds of inequality in the use of space’ but pointed out the need to have creative methodology. Jarmin explains that when you are studying spatial justice ‘observing how people use space, or even just the kind of organic choreography that happens in cities, are ways to look at how space gets used, what it was intended to be used for by design, and how people may creatively resist or construct their own ways of using those spaces’.

These important Conversations are on-going, and more podcasts will be added as the series continues. The topic of the fourth podcast (to be released soon) was Urban Mobility, and brought together Carol Kachadoorian, an active transportation planner from Maryland, and Wilbert den Hoed from Rovira i Virgili University, Barcelona. Carol shares that to her researching active mobility involves ‘what it means to be growing older, what it means to want to remain physically active, and how the built environment and social structures support that.’ Wilbert suggests that an active mobility approach encourages researchers to think about not just design practices and infrastructure, but how people use spaces and ‘engage within it, and their use is relational to the social practises of spaces and to the destinations.’

In 2022-2023 we are planning more Conversations covering topics ranging from memory, housing and sustainable cities. You can check our website or follow MUARG on Twitter for the latest news.