Anti-ageism campaigners set sights on bikes and hip menus

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Cafe Break in Stoke Newington is one of the first Hackney cafes to be awarded "oldie-friendly" status. Image: Sallie Fellowes

They are the signs of a borough that has long been engulfed by gentrification. Now fixie bikes that block doorways and illegible hip menus are being targeted by anti-ageism campaigners who claim Hackney has become inaccessible to the pensioner.

A campaign launched last week hopes to raise “more awareness of the little problems” older people face getting around and turn Hackney into London’s first “oldie-friendly” borough.

Founder of Oldie-Friendly Hackney Sallie Fellows said she wants to counter “ageist language and opinions”. To do so she plans to create a register of Hackney’s oldie-friendly cafes, restaurants and shops.

Two cafes on Stoke Newington High Street, Café Break and Joseph’s Café, have become the first to qualify for “oldie-friendly” status. They offer table service for elderly customers, allow them to skip the queue during busy spells and will even drop a meal round to regular customers’ homes if they’re unwell and live nearby.

“Many old people feel invisible in their local area,” said Fellowes, who has worked with elderly people in Hackney for the past three years. “Gentrification is changing high streets beyond recognition. They’re becoming less accessible for over-60s and that leaves many feeling isolated and unwelcome.”

“We go around businesses with a checklist: could older people use the toilet without buying something?” she said. “Is the text of a menu large enough for an older person to read? Do customers leave their bikes in doorways? These sound like small things, but they make a big difference.”

Hackney’s older residents have already felt the benefit. Brian, 84, said the project is “extremely helpful in giving practical and emotional support to older people with their various daily problems regarding public transport, access to cafes, pubs and shops.”

Fellowes hopes her scheme will help create “champions” for older people in Hackney. “After all,” she says, “we’ll all be oldies one day.”