We need more loos, seats and buses in Banbury, say elderly

Facilities in Bridge Street, Banbury.
Facilities in Bridge Street, Banbury.

A lack of seating, toilets and public transport is making Banbury feel ‘inhospitable’ to the elderly, according an Age UK survey.

The survey of older people shows many do not have buses to get to town and cannot afford taxis. When they do get to town there are too few places to sit or lavatories on hand to make them feel they can stay long.

An initiative, called Age Friendly Banbury, has been set up, based on a World Health Organisation concept, to make the town a better place to grow older.

Penny Thewlis, of Age UK Oxfordshire, told the Community Partnership Network (CPN): “Four things emerged from the survey.

“The first was that it’s difficult getting about, so one of the things we want the Age Friendly Banbury project to achieve is improved access – some of which may be voluntarily provided – and more public transport.

“People talked about Banbury town centre feeling inhospitable. They talk about places to sit and difficulty finding a loo – which sounds trivial but is preventing people making use of the town centre.”

The third area was access to health services and the Horton. “There were a lot of comments about primary care and the cost and difficulty of getting there and that prohibits people taking up preventative opportunities.”

The fourth major concern was loneliness, too few social activities and opportunities to stay engaged with others. People need more information on what is going on, she said.

Ms Thewlis said £40,000 funding in hand would pay for a worker to develop the project’s ideas.

On April 2 there is a public meeting at the Cornhill Centre to update those interested and to discuss the next steps in tackling the four themes.

Ms Thewlis said new loos to be opened in People’s Park showed how ‘people power’ could make a difference.

Cllr Andrew McHugh told CPN the new Castle Quay development was due to have a ‘changing space’ available around-the-clock.

Charlotte Bird of Keep the Horton General advocated the expansion of the ‘safe places’ scheme in which shops put themselves forward as a safe place where people can get help if they need it while out and about in the community.

Ms Thewlis called on shops such as Boots, M&S, banks and Sainsbury’s to ‘get enthusiastic’ and nominate themselves as safe places.

Mr McHugh said: “As life expectancy increases, it doesn’t increase the length of childhood or adolescence, it increases the amount of time we spend in old age so all of us have an interest in this.”

Speaking to the Banbury Guardian, Ms Thewlis said: “We are still at a very early stage in developing an action plan to follow up on the themes people have raised, but actions to make the town centre more age-friendly include new and more accessible public loos and in response to the call for more activities to help alleviate loneliness, we are planning a month-long Age of Creativity Festival in May, providing opportunities for people to get involved in a range of activities.”