Leeds Older People’s Forum Flashdance
Thursday 17th May was the day that the long awaited Leeds Older People’s Forum Flashdance took place. Despite the weather being cold and grey with some drizzle added in for good measure, visiting Leeds as a first-time day-tripper from London was made easy by the warm welcome from the local Age UK centre and the older people taking part.
The Leeds Older People Forum had worked so hard to make sure that the event passed without a hitch. Everyone involved was buzzing with excitement at the prospect of taking Leeds by surprise, and they were not disappointed! Smiles and laughter all round showed that this event meant more than just communicating a message of making Leeds a city for all ages. It was about doing something out of the ordinary and coming together with other people who care.
Lynne described how she hadn’t been able to visit the city centre for years. She said that using a wheelchair and living on her own were big barriers to her getting out and about in town. Being involved in the Flashdance gave her the encouragement to travel in, and is a clear example of why Leeds must pay more attention to making the city centre more accessible.
But a more accessible city isn’t just about making the city suitable for older people. It is about making it easier for everyone to travel into and move about the city with ease. This includes making it easier for families with pushchairs and young children to meet together, especially if they do not have access to a car. It is also about helping to support local shops and businesses by ensuring people can pop into the city centre and spend their money there.
Older people in Leeds do not want to be neglected. They want to continue to use the city they grew up shopping, meeting and working in. They love that it is a city that young people and students can come to, learn in and enjoy, but they want a share of the exciting new spaces being developed.
Many of the dancers explained how their confidence had grown and how they enjoy life to the full now that they have interesting things to try in their free time. Despite their concerns about accessibility, the flashdancers were keen to chat about how much they loved Leeds. Their passion for the city they live in translated into their excitement about being involved in the campaign.
The flashdance showed that older people need not be tucked up indoors, and that there is little to stop older people in Leeds doing this either. Getting a message out about making a city accessible is so much more powerful by demonstrating that older people can take on challenges we usually expect from younger people.
The flashmob trend shows that creativity and spontaneity can produce a big impact by using social media tools to spread the message quickly and easily. The success of the flashdance on the day was recognised by the likes of Gransnet supporting and retweeting the flashdance. The determination of a group of 60 older people in Leeds has reached out to thousands more people and all we can wonder is what they will be up to next. Watch this space…
And, if you want to learn how to do the Leeds Older People’s Forum Flashdance then click here for a tutorial video!
Post by Claire Bradnam, intern on the Building Local Activism project