Is Jesmond friendly to older people?

(L-R) Jean Hughes, Cathy Burns and Valerie Fenwick

When most people think of Jesmond, the first thing that comes to their mind is the array of pubs, cafes and bars along Osborne Road that makes it known as student hotspot. However, in cities like Newcastle, the studentification of a suburb can sometimes mean the concerns of older people are neglected.

So we asked some of the older people of Jesmond for their thoughts on their neighbours and neighbourhood.

What’s good about Jesmond?

Valerie Fenwick, who has lived in West Jesmond for more than 35 years says: “It has changed, but I don’t object to the students – they bring life to the area. As for older people, there is quite a lot to do if they look and want to mix. The church and the clubs often organise events and the students take part in these as well.”

Valerie lives at Jesmond’s Cestria House Care Home. However, having grown up in the area, she is surrounded by friends and enjoys going out with them almost every day. Café 1901 is a personal favourite.

To keep occupied, she recommends joining the local library that is run by residents. She was a volunteer there for five years and the library often organises talks as well. “We even had an architecture student come in and talk to us once – it was very interesting to hear his perspective,” says Valerie.

Jean Hughes, who lives at the same home, loves the social activities organised at Jesmond, especially the rookie golf sessions that take place each week at St George’s Church. From singing groups to coffee mornings, there are plenty of activity options to choose from. 

Jesmond sometimes appears in the headlines when there are incidents of anti-social behaviour or noise caused by student parties, but Kathleen Burns, who is the manager of the care home sees a different side of the student population.

She has worked in Jesmond for over 30 years and says: “Over the years, students have invited us to street parties and even helped residents do the egg and spoon races! Anytime they have had a party, they put a note on the door that says, ‘Ring this number if we get too loud.’ What more can you ask for?”

“For older people in Jesmond, there are many social activities organised by churches like Jesmond Parish Church and St. George’s Church as well as groups like Dementia Friends. There are flower festivals and we also have a community garden that visit weekly.”

Kathleen says the residents of the home have even been invited to dance parties. “And believe me, the residents make more noise than anyone.”

Issues that need to be tackled

A major issue for older people in Jesmond is the state of footpaths, especially for those in a wheelchair. Sanderson Road and side roads have bumps that could lead to serious injuries, says Kathleen.

Labour councillors for North Jesmond Stella Postlethwaite and Wendy Young said that improving North Jesmond’s accessibility is at the top of their priority list. 

In a joint statement, they said: “In terms of future plans to make the streets more accessible, there is capital money available through the Streets for People initiative – just under £1m to be spent across Jesmond.

“This has already seen bollards that were unnecessarily cluttering the pavement removed from outside the Brentwood Avenue shops, making the pavement easier for all pedestrians to navigate but particularly for those pedestrians who use wheelchairs.”

The two councillors say there will also be new pedestrian crossings in Jesmond, including raising the road on the west side of St George’s Terrace to prevent people having to step up and down when crossing the road.

“These improvements will make it easier for pedestrians to get around, especially for those who use wheelchairs,” they say.

“Unfortunately, there is a lot less money available for replacement of large sections of the pavement or renewal of the back lanes since the severe cuts to council budgets,” they add.

Streets for People money cannot be used on maintenance, according to the councillors, as it is capital money.

Instead, a small separate pot of money has been made available to the ward this year for street maintenance – which the councillors have chosen to spend on replacing a section of damaged pavement on Grosvenor Road.

Repair and replacement of damaged paving stones is council responsibility, the councillors say.

“If residents see a loose paving stone or one that dangerously protrudes from the ground and could cause someone to trip and fall, they are encouraged to inform the council of its location so that it can be repaired as soon as possible.”

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