Growing older in London

7 months ago (1:09 AM)
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I am 70 and a lifelong Londoner. I've seen the city I grew up in gradually lose the character I loved (and I'm talking about buildings and infrastructure, not people). My needs haven't changed significantly over time though I'm a little slower now. My mother was still sprightly in her mid eighties: I'm hoping for those genes. Paradoxically I like technology which can make my life easier and still be unobtrusive.


I'm in my fifties, but plan to stay in London. I'm lucky that I have a home that is secure, but I worry that if the housing problem is not effectively addressed, Central London will be a place where only the very rich live, with a few older people scattered amongst them. On a practical level, this means London could be very isolating for older people like me, and the services I will likely come to rely more on, such as healthcare, home care, even police or council services will not be properly staffed, as there just won't be people to do the jobs. We're already perilously short of nurses and ambulance drivers. But from a social point of view, London will become a very unbalanced community, normal people of working age and children will disappear from our communities and be replaced by a population of temporary residents (students, professionals) who stay for a few years and move on. They will have no investment in the community and no connection with it.

Twice Nightly

I am now approaching my sixtieth birthday and I am concerned how in my later life I will manage with the cost of living.
As people get older they become invisible, I see it everyday as I go into work and the society we live in does not seem to care about anyone other than themselves. I may be about to be made redundant after 11 years in the same company. At my age trying to find another job in the market earmarked for younger people I think I will struggle. I don't want to be burden on anyone else and certainly not the state.

I have been living in Outer London,working and socialising in Inner London for approaching 64 years. The worst thing that I have experienced apart from the smog is the current obsession with cyclists, they account for around 12% of road users but the rest are being inconvenienced for their possible benefit. My local council is also currently installing numerous unnecessary and unwanted speed bumps to 'improve' road safety. Safety would be better improved by filling in all the holes, removing superfluous signage/ 'street furniture' and fitting countdown timers to crossings. Pollution reduction would be easier if vehicles were able to maintain a steady speed instead of slowing and increasing as necessitated by speed bumps and poor timing of traffic lights.

E17 Pioneer

Car ownership in London has started to rise again, presumably as the population rises - each borough is expected to increase by 3,000 residents a year. Car ownership in London is around 50%, so given that rate we can expect a further 1500 x 32 = 48,000 cars a year in London.
How will removing speed humps prevent pollution from 48,000 cars a year in London? You may dislike cyclists, but they don't contribute to pollution - how strange you should object to them while quoting a concern for pollution.
Given the anticipated rise in population, the continued obsession with 'car is king' will effectively throw car and pedestrians in closer proximity on our 19th century roads not equipped for 21st century traffic.
32 children were killed or seriously injured in my borough between 2011-2015 by cars, 30 of them as pedestrians. Children cannot judge traffic speeds or distance until they are 16 years old - think of the danger to secondary school children who should be entitled to make their own way to school - if car use is allowed to grow unrestrained. DFT figures show we are all 50% more likely to be injured on a residential road than on a main road - there are less constraints on poor driver behaviour - lights, cameras etc - than on a main road.
Pollution reduction will be easier if less people are inclined to drive and walk and cycle more. The roads should be left open for the disabled, elderly and emergency services, not clogged with able bodied people.


I am 61 and have lived in London all my life. I have grown up and evolved with London so don't feel there are many issues. Maybe I have adapted to the changing times better than others.
Something I have become more aware of on the transport system in recent years, and affects my wife is step free access. This is being addressed in many ways, but there are still situations in the older underground stations where you have to navigate stairs all be it short, before you can access a lift or escalator. This can still be limiting for some people with disabilities, or just old!


I am 50 and have a brain injury. I use a cane to walk around London. But people don't look up from their phones, nor do they want to give up the priority seats they believe they 'own' once they are on the bus or tube. Children are their scooters jam into my cane without a care in the world and their parents are far too busy on their mobiles to apologise. The manners in London over the pass 25 years has disappeared. I really don't know how the blind get around if I am treated like this. People stopping on the pavement all of the sudden to text. How do blind dogs manage that? I love London and don't want to move. Good manners can go a long way and the general public has forgotten that basic principal.


Now in my 60's I want to remain a London'er but the lack of housing for over 60's is shocking! I can stay in my 5 bedroom Victorian house but really want to move to a smaller more manageable property in my area. However, they don't exist so I will continue occupying my house and blocking families in need of a bigger house, mine!
I am discouraged to move by stamp duty for my potential buyers and myself as a new down-sizer. Equally, the lack of three bedroom small houses versus lots of 0ne/Two bedroom apartments provides little option.

E17 Pioneer

Donald Appleyard's paper demonstrated people become increasingly isolated in direct correlation to how much traffic is in their area, busier roads in effect destroy communities. Just look how the M11 separated Leytonstone. Given older people feel isolated as they grow older, it would be good to start developing a network of streets that allow residential traffic only that encourage community interaction. All streets should have benches to allow older people, with limited mobility, to stop for a break on their way home.
There should also be more planters and 'pocket parks / rain gardens' developed for community gardening projects.
Reduced car use should free up space currently reserved for cars - i.e. big car parks - to allow more housing to be built. Green spaces will become even more important for recreation for younger flat dwellers and older people alike, and to give older residents access to their community.
Doctor's surgery should be expanded as local health centres in order to offer the community a more comprehensive health service without having to go further afield to hospital.
Building more homes for 'downsizing' would be a good idea so older residents can free up family homes.
ALL tube stations in London should be genuinely step free, to allow the elderly, disabled and people with children more freedom on public transport.


London is hard on oider people- I am not old- well nearly 70 and I hate to be old but the transport system is terrible for oldies- free travel is wonderful if the buses were not quite so full, Why do pushchairs not fold up any more? When I was in my 30s you had to fold a chair with a baby under one arm and your bag and pram under the other. if the underground was not quite so difficult with stairs and long long passages to negotiate- roads (and pavements) all seem to have humps and bumps where one jolts one's already scarred spine, and pavements seem to be full of bikes now adays. Is it legal or are cyclists just trying it on everywhere I go on footpaths and pavements? (plus none of them appears to have a bell of judge body distances) if you have two dogs on leads pulling you sideways a bike skimming past your ear is really risking trouble. I love London and have lived here for over 50 years and I do not feel I want to move out, but I fear the way things are going, there will be no place for the poor and old and Londoner people in general.


I am 69. I still cycle every day. I also drive a car every day. And what I wish is that TfL would stop with the endless unnecessary road works putting in useless cycle super-duper highways and thousands of traffic lights designed to cause traffic jams. TfL are unaccountable and out of control. There is no way to object the the continuous interfering with local roads and local lives which are sacrificed to the almighty cycling lobby. TfL have spent almost £1-billion on these stupid cycle lanes to save nine lives-a-year. Think how many lives would be saved by hiring more doctors and nurses or building a hospital with that billion pounds. TfL should stick to running the tubes and buses and keep out of road building and wasting public money. And if they weren't building so many roads tuber and bus fare might actually drop. So, to sum up, TfL needs top to bottom reorganization and re-purposing. "Every Journey Matters" Ha! Not if you just want to potter about locally and visit your local stores or the doctor...


agree most whole heartedly. They put a cycle path around an old people's residence (blind corner) recently and lovely brand new tarred path right behind my wall where they cut down the top of my back fence along with any plants hanging over leaving my back garden vulnerable- they left a walking path for humans on foot in the centre of the park rotten- it floods into a lake if it rains and is pot holed - I would not care but half the cyclists turning right take the walker path when it is not flooded to cut off the corner- a joke!!

Terry Vaughan

That money is not being spent just to save nine lives (and many serious injuries) a year, though that would be justification enough. If nine people died in tube crashes every year, there would be no argument about the money.

London has some serious problems that affect everyone, one way or another, such as poisonous air that kills thousands, an obesity crisis that costs billions, terrible congestion and more. The main cause of these problems is motor vehicles. Many car journeys are unnecessary, and many cars and taxis carry only the driver. Much of the time they are far and away the least efficient use of road space.

We need to reduce the number of car trips. Cycling can be ideal for the kind of short trips you describe, but is out of the question for most people until conditions change. If you cycle yourself as you claim, you must be aware of that. There is huge latent demand. If you are prepared to cycle on the roads as they are now, most people are not.

If we put in good quality cycle tracks, people will use them. But this country has spent next to nothing on cycling over the years. Most of that has been frittered away on schemes that achieved very little. Now at last TfL is building something that is actually designed for cycling. All credit to those involved. Still little enough, but we have to start somewhere. Meanwhile many local councils either do nothing at all, as where I live, or continue to waste money.


I wonder if anyone reads these comments???

Talk London

Hi R4949,

Thanks for your post - the answer to your question is a definite yes! We feed all comment here in to the relevant City Hall policy teams, to help shape their work. In this case comments are of great interest to most policy teams as they’ll all be used to help steer work on reviewing the London Plan. We’ll come back to you again soon with some of their further thoughts and questions. Thanks again and keep the comments coming.

Talk London Team


I've lived in London for almost 40 years and love it. But it can always be improved. The roads and pavements need attention as they are the major cause of falls (uneven paving slabs, pot holes,). I like the countdown at traffic lights but find that cyclists don't always recognise that people expect to cross roads during this period. Cyclists could be more considerate to pedestrians. I think London transport is wonderful when compared to many other cities ( in UK and abroad) but it would help if buses had a picture of their route visible on the inside of the bus, and a special plea to bus drivers to break less violently as passengers may be on the stairs or standing and it can cause accidents. I love the Freedom pass and it enables me to attend classes that will keep me fitter and more alert as I age - it is a good investment since I would probably require more NHS services otherwise. One of the best things about growing old in London is that I am reasonably close to the GP, other services, local shops and adult education courses - my country siblings have to drive considerable distances for any of these and as a result don't get out as much as I do. Ironic isn't it.
london is an expensive city to live in, but there is always so much going on it is constantly entertaining.


As someone who both drives and cycles in London I am astonished about comments I have read here about the number of deaths of cyclists in our city, as if they are meaningless collateral damage. The deaths are only a very small proportion of those injured daily in London, and this is also reflected in large numbers of pedestrians killed and maimed by the shocking standard of driving by a minority. I have twice been almost knocked down crossing the roads on zebra crossings by speeding van drivers this week alone. In the parts of London where the speed limit has been reduced to 20mph this is much safer and makes motorists less aggressive towards cyclists as we are all travelling at the same speed. A child hit by a car going at 30mph is 80% likely to die. Hit by a car going at 20mph is only 20% likely to die. When are we going to place the lives of pedestrians at the same value as the convenience of those behind the wheel of a car? Dont forget, we are all paying for their medical care via the NHS.

Caroline Hughes

From a quick scan of the responses so far, only older people seem to have commented, which is perhaps a comment in itself.
So, I'm a fairly fit 60 year-old and walk a lot around London. I think its a wonderful city and I love living here. However I do wonder if it isn't a little too youth-focused, or is it that the planners are mostly younger so the inevitable happens and they are busy parking older folk in suburban old peoples' homes (why would anyone want to live like that??) while I want to live in the middle of the hubbub with plenty of services, amenities, and people nearby?
Anyway, a further piece of luck in addition to my good state of health is that I live fairly centrally and own my own home, surrounded by bars and night clubs and not able to find a pub of a Saturday evening without a bouncer outside (sigh). I'm worried about the segmentation of this city into young/old, rich/poor: it seems very pronounced in London.
Re transport: I agree with everything others have said. My bug bear is bikes so when I walk along the canal I'm expected by some - not all - cyclists to jump out of the way as they speed along. I'd love to ride a bike myself but find myself intimidated by the speed and aggressiveness of some other cyclists. And what is it with this cool thing about riding on the pavements - hey, that's my space!
I think the buses are fab and I love travelling on them: they are so frequent and efficient.


Central London is a great place for retired people to live as there are so many FOC exhibitions, concerts and other activities. However, the uneven pavements are a significant hazard for those a little unsteady on their feet. People engrossed in telephone conversations and cyclists disobeying the highway code are also a challenge for those who are no longer able to quickly jump out of the way.

Down sizing is a challenge as new properties have limited car parking so unless one is formally classified as disabled owning a car and being able to park nearby is problematic. Car ownership for the elderly is often essential. Car hire, car clubs and bicycles are not the answer for an aging population who are often starting to become physically challenged.

E17 Pioneer

The assumption all elderly residents need cars is not correct. I have two friends in their late 70's who have just returned from a 4 month cycling trip and for whom cycling is their main form of transport. Another friend who is 74 was advised to cycle by his doctor to loose weight before his double knee replacement. He is now continuing to cycle as part of his rehabilitation after having both knees replaced. Maybe the key to preventing becoming physically challenged is to remain as active as possible for as long as possible.


The idea that older people cant use bikes is incorrect in many cases. There are mobility bikes which are used extensively in Holland (and here) by some seniors and enable people to get about AND maintain their muscle mass. Failing to use muscles alongside getting older leads to muscle loss and eventually disability and care home admission as once you can no longer get up out of a chair and on and off the lavatory you cannot self care any more, and can no longer live independently. The reason so many care homes are moving out of big cities is that they cannot recruit staff as the flatshare rents and low salaries for care staff together have priced them out of the market. Having spent several years in the care sector I know more than a little about this topic. I am 58 and cycle regularly. On a recent cycling holiday abroad there were three ladies from Kent in their late seventies. They were really fit! I have friends who have moved into bungalows and have rapidly lost the ability to use the stairs. Use it or lose it seems to be the message here. I certainly agree about the small but unfortunate minority of discourteous cyclists but do not forget the minority of dangerous drivers, there are too many pedestrians walking along listening to their headphones looking at their phones totally oblivious to other people around them, who seem to step off the pavement in another world entirely. This is apparently a regular cause of fatality in London and other big cities.


The worst thing for us growing older is that everything is now done online or via an App (whatever that actually is ) and getting through to call centres is not highest priority for Transport for London. And now they've shut all the ticket offices so I feel a bit at a loss as to where to put my more complicated queries sometimes. . All the youngsters can use computers and mobile phones with internet very easily. I find I can do some things and use ticket machines, although I am not always sure that I get the best priced tickets or even the correct ones.
Please remember that some of us are not so very computer literate - or give us a phone line for our own -so we can ask the 'daft' older style questions, please. we have paid into London with our sweat and toils, so please don't discount us now and expect us to 'go online' for every little query !
Thank- you


One of the worst aspects of London is the noise levels. In central London now proper sleep is only possible between about 1.30am and 5.30am. Lack of sleep and only getting poor quality disturbed sleep have considerable bad effects on health. This affects everyone and especially children. A good night's good quality uninterrupted sleep is a particularly important defence against the development of Alzheimer's. Yet TfL and the new Mayor are going ahead with the 24-hour tube plans. Not only will ;thousands of Londoners who live above or next to tube lines suffer from loss of sleep, but the whole idea is to increase the London economy at night time. So it will be 24-hour full blast noise throughout central London. Road traffic will inevitably increase, shops will be open round the clock, fooderies too, deliveries will increase, night and day, revellers will be roaring around all night long. So it will not just be Londoners living close to tube lines who will be losing sleep. The health impacts will be considerable, particularly for older citizens and children.

Talk London

Thanks all for your comments here. We also featured questions on growing older in the capital in our latest Talking Points survey, which almost 1,000 Talk London members took part in.

Many of the issues raised here so far were reflected in results, and we found that there was clear concern about the cost of living rising further in London in the coming decades. 66% were very or fairly concerned with cost of housing, 74% with the cost of living in general. 77% were concerned with pollution and air quality, and the Mayor has recently announced a number of measures to tackle air quality by 2020. These concerns outweighed mobility related issues like an accessible transport network and activities for older people.

When asked specifically about the transport related issues that are most important to people as they reach old age, clean air, step-free access and less busy roads/streets were most commonly mentioned, outweighing technological developments such as wifi or navigation apps. Thinking about surroundings more generally, after clean air and green space, survey respondents also prioritised specialised and affordable housing.

The Diversity and Social Policy team are currently working these results, and your comments here, into reports that will form part of the evidence base used in the coming review of the London Plan. We’ll keep you updated on this work.



The best thing about being old in London is the Freedom Pass. It has given me the opportunity to live life, not just exisit in our great diverse city. Transport has improved so much s7nce i was young and waiting for a bus is no longer a pain. As for the Victoria line I never wait for longer than a minute or two. I live in Sheltered housing and am very happy to have a warm safe home, but finding a place to live at the age of 71 years was horrible, in the end i had to be "homeless" for 18 months before getting proper accommodation. I witnessed my elder sister growing very old and in need of carers. The system needs to be able to cater for people who need to know their carer and not keep changing them from day to day, which causes great confusion. Also many carers have to live far from their work places and pay a lot for travel.


'Age Does Not Matter' is a 4-day disruptive exploration of Age - 28 Sep to 1 Oct, at the Bargehouse, Southbank. We're exploring a new intergenerational future in 10 sectors - transport, health, education, work, care, fashion, leisure, money, housing, media. Led by Barclays, Legal & General, Creative Review, Royal Collage of Art and more than 1000 members of the public. We're a lottery-funded movement for intergenerational social change. Would really love for the Mayor of London to officially open the event! Sincerely, Jonathan Collie, co-founder Age of No Retirement,


How about some more affordable sheltered housing provision? It could be a concierge as standard in new "affordable" high rise housing. Just someone to keep an eye out for those of us who live alone in rented housing. I don't want to be monitored on a daily basis - just someone who would notice if I hadn't been out.


As I am increasingly loosing mobility and ability to walk any distance I am concerned about plans like those to make Oxford Street feet only. Making Oxford Street safer is relatively easy -- put up barriers on the sides of the roads forcing pedestrians to only cross at fixed points. But don't remove public transport - otherwise how am I expected to move from one end to another, let alone a couple of hundred feet. I certainly cannot clamber up and down the tube -- there are few/no step free tube stations on oxford street. Perhaps the best answer is to replace buses with a slow moving tram system with easy access for disabled/old - wheelchairs etc -- straight from the pavement onto the tram.


More GP practices are needed in my opinion.
However I don't think London is getting older. Many people move away for retirement and bigger problem is with providing high schools for kids.