‘Urban and suburban geographies of ageing’

This write up by  Debbie Lager (University of Groningen) and Chiara Negrini (Kingston University) is about the ‘Urban and suburban geographies of ageing’ at the recent conference. The session was sponsored by the Urban Geography Research Group (UGRG) and the Geographies of Health Research Group (GHRG) but many of the presentations and areas of discussion are of particular interest to transport geographers interested in mobility and ageing.

The ‘Urban and suburban geographies of ageing’ double session was sponsored by the Urban Geography Research Group and the Geographies of Health Research Group. It was organised by Debbie Lager, Bettina van Hoven (both University of Groningen), Chiara Negrini (Kingston University) and Tim Schwanen (Oxford University). Both slots were well attended and marked a renewed engagement among geographers with the different socio-spatial configurations and inequalities of later life. The session covered a wide range of topics. The first slot brought together geographers engaged with mobilities and immobilities in old age. In particular, it looked at the transport dimension and the experiences of older people in navigating the outdoor environment. The papers in this slot discussed the meaning and accessibility of suburban and retail environments for older people, conflicting discourses around mobility scooters, urban design and older people’s engagement in cycling activities, the experiences of going outdoors after a recent fall and the challenges of suburban ageing. The second slot discussed a variety of issues around (minority) older adults (i.e., ethnicity and sexual orientation) and urban design, in particular housing and spatial distributions of older populations. Through different theoretical and methodological approaches, the papers in this slot highlighted the diversity in the ageing population’s social and spatial practices.

MOBILITIES AND LIVELIHOODS IN DEVELOPING URBAN CONTEXTS

The TGRG and Developing Areas Research Group (DARG) jointly hosted a three-part session at the RGS-IBG annual conference on mobilities and livelihoods in low income country urban contexts. While this is the first collaborative session between these two research groups, at least in recent years, the wide-ranging discussion generated by the 13 papers presented indicates the value of bringing together researchers whose approach and prime focus may differ, but whose common concern is to understand and contribute towards improving the lives of marginalised residents of rapidly developing urban areas. This write-up, by TGRG chair Karen Lucas, provides detail on each of the 13 talks.

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MOBILE PHONES, MOBILITY AND TRANSPORT IN SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA

Two panel sessions exploring the growing linkages between travel/transport organisation and mobile phones in Africa were held at the African Studies Association biennial conference at Sussex University in September 2014, organised and chaired by Gina Porter from Durham University and sponsored by the DFID-funded Africa Community Access Programme.

The remarkable expansion of mobile phone networks in Africa is bringing a tangible new dimension of connectivity into transport and access equations on the ground: now-feasible interactions between virtual and physical mobility are helping to reshape access potential, even in many hitherto remote areas (especially where linked to the rapid uptake of transportation modes such as the motorcycle-taxi). Phones can cut travel costs and time, reducing the number of long, potentially hazardous road journeys on poor roads in badly maintained vehicles, in regions with among the world’s highest accident rates and where highway robbery and other types of harassment associated with travel may be widespread. Better distance management through phone use may be particularly closely associated with populations with very low disposable incomes, and/or whose physical mobility is limited, for instance by disability, infirmity, age or gender. A write-up of these sessions, by Gina, who will give the keynote Hoyle Lecture speech at next year’s RGS-IBG conference, follow.

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