Livable communities won't happen overnight, but steps taken locally can yield results. For example, in 2008, AARP worked to help pass Suffolk County legislation requiring that housing built with public funds have "universal design" features such as an entry ramp, wider doorways, and a bedroom and an accessible half-bath on the ground floor.
AARP New York has teamed with Vision Long Island, an organization dedicated to pedestrian-friendly, affordable, mixed-use housing, to foster livable communities.
Help with food aid
"Now we're working with Suffolk County and the towns in it to make sure older people have access to the services they need," including nutrition programs, Stoner said.
Last year, AARP New York mailed letters to 10,000 member households in Suffolk County that were income-eligible for food stamps but not enrolled and encouraged them to call a special phone line at the state office. Stoner said the line was inundated with calls.
Every day for about six months, six to eight volunteers directed callers to a community enrollment site or — in a desperate situation — to the nearest food bank.
AARP New York is recruiting additional volunteers in Suffolk County to work with the six town coordinators.
"The goal is to have a network of volunteers on issues like housing, mobility and availability of services — things that affect people right out of their front doors," Stoner said.
He's hoping others will join Smith in her campaign to make her community a place she can live in comfortably for many years.
For more information or to volunteer, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1-866-227-7442 toll-free.
Cathie Gandel is a freelance writer who lives in Suffolk County, N.Y.
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