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Localism 'risks disengaging urban elderly'

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Older people in urban areas are significantly less likely to vote in local elections than their rural or suburban counterparts and risk being left out of the government’s localism agenda, according to new research.

A survey carried out for the International Longevity Centre - UK  (ILC-UK) ahead of the 5 May local elections found that older people in urban and deprived areas were less likely to vote in local and national elections, but more likely to be dependent on public transport and afraid to go to some areas near their homes.

ILC-UK said those residents were less likely to have access to social networks to underpin the kind of community engagement that would be vital for the success of many of the Localism Bill proposals.

Its critical analysis of the British Social Attitudes Survey showed that substantially fewer older people in urban and deprived areas had access to the internet, making effective communication harder.

Baroness Sally Greengross, chief executive of ILC-UK, said it was vital that the government recognised the extent to which some older people could become even more disengaged from society.

She said: “As the Localism Bill reaches its final parliamentary stages, it is vital that the government considers how it can ensure that it raises participation from hard to reach groups and foster intergenerational trust and cooperation, elements that are required to ensure that decisions taken on service provision and development reflect the needs of people of all ages.”

The research, titled Can Localism work for Older People in Urban Environments?, found that 35% of older people in urban areas said they had little or no interest in politics compared with 18% of their rural counterparts.

The think-tank called for:

  • Policymakers to strengthen interpersonal, intergenerational, and multigenerational networks, particularly in urban areas
  • Extra efforts to ensure that local decisions reflect the diversity of the electorate, including structuring referenda and other participatory measures around the needs of older people
  • New minimum standards on the provision of information to ensure that older and more deprived residents are properly engaged in local decision-making
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