Vice President, AARP Office of International Affairs
Seminar on “Affordability & Safety of Livable Communities: Lessons from Around the World”
Wednesday, June 30, 2010
Good afternoon. I am Josh Collett, Vice President of International Affairs at AARP. Let me first say how pleased we are that all of you could join us for this timely discussion on livable communities. It is so important that we “mainstream” the livable communities conversation. And we believe events like this one can help get the word out and bring stakeholders at all levels together.
I’d like to thank the panelists for their high-caliber presentations. Your knowledge, preparation and the incisive, informative discussion that resulted are very much appreciated.
As you begin your lunch, I want to briefly describe the work of AARP’s Office of International Affairs. We have a dual purpose: internally, we identify international best practices and policies on aging to inform policy discussion here in the United States. Externally, we partner with governments, NGO’s, the business community and others to offer expertise and place issues of common interest on the global agenda. We work closely with organizations such as the OECD, the European Commission, leading NGOs in China, think tanks in Latin America and for more than three decades, AARP has been active at the United Nations.
We convene and participate in international conferences, seeking to leverage thought leadership into practical action. And we add value through our policy research and publications – such as The Journal, which I will note in a moment.
As Elinor Ginzler described in her remarks, one of AARP’s priorities is to encourage livable communities. Whether we are working with industry to standardize “universal design” principles, with consumers on improving driver safety, with transportation advocates on Complete Streets initiatives, or with regional planning experts on the proximity of affordable housing and public transit options, the idea is simple: in order for people 50+ to maintain independence, remain involved in their communities, and enjoy quality of life as they age, they must have choices – for mobility, housing and supportive services.
If they do, they will make more trips outside their homes, they will stay connected to their friends, they will be more engaged in life, they will pursue healthier, more balanced lifestyles, and they will be more independent. People over 50 want their communities to be more livable because they want to remain in them!
Today’s seminar underscores the global relevance of this idea – that there is no place like home. Around the world, governments and the private sector are responding to this basic desire for livability and to the demographic trends that are creating an imperative for livable communities, with innovation and fresh thinking. In so many countries, livable community markets are forming – in housing, technology, transportation and services – where none existed before. It is a whole new ballgame.
AARP’s international office is keen to extend the momentum on livable communities and serve as a trusted source of intellectual capital on this issue. Our latest issue of The Journal, we think, is a step in this direction.