Creating Communities for All Ages in New York

Nancy LeaMond — AARP Executive Vice President, State and National Group — addresses the New York State Association of Counties

AARP has been collecting data on the "longevity economy" in New York — that is, the sum of all economic activity supported by the consumer spending of households headed by someone aged 50 or older.  

And we’ve seen that New Yorkers over the age of 50 contribute to the economy in a positive, outsize proportion to their share of the population.

Despite the fact that the 50-plus only accounted for 34 percent of the population in 2013, they represent 46 percent of New York’s GDP — supporting 6.1 million jobs.

So there will be an enormous cost to communities that don’t figure out new ways to hold on to their aging residents.

That’s the bad news. But the good news is — we’ve seen a lot of progress, and there is a proven path for success.

Two years ago, we launched a partnership with the World Health Organization, when we became the U.S. affiliate for the Network of Age-Friendly Communities.

We work with local leaders across the country who are committed to making their communities great places for all ages.

We now have 35 communities in the AARP Network of Age-Friendly Communities, representing more than 23 million people.

I want to give a shout-out to New York for being ahead of the curve, because there are more age-friendly places in your state than anywhere else in the country — 11 communities, including:

  • New York City
  • Westchester County
  • Suffolk County
  • Onondaga County
  • Chemung County
  • The City of Syracuse
  • Brookhaven Town
  • The Village of Great Neck Plaza
  • The Town of Elmira
  • The City of Elmira
  • The Town of Big Flats

I know there are representatives here today from some of these communities, and I'm delighted to announce that our host site, Erie County, formally joined the AARP network today!

To commemorate this, I'd like to invite [Erie County Executive] Mark Poloncarz up to the stage to accept this certificate.

While they are all taking different approaches, each community is following the same process — assessing their local needs, developing an action plan, and implementing solutions.

For example, Westchester passed a law to require that 50 percent of all of their affordable housing stock be accessible — so that lower income older adults can age in place, rather than moving to costly nursing homes.

They also created a volunteer caregiver coaching program, to help caregivers who need help.

As another example, Suffolk County passed Complete Streets legislation — to make streets safer for pedestrians of all ages — and they approved a budget appropriation for Complete Streets projects. 

And we are seeing that kind of innovation happen in communities across the country.

The city of Wichita, Kansas, turned an abandoned lot into a grandparents park — so that grandparents can stay healthy and fit while their grandkids play beside them.

In Boston, the mayor developed a mobile app called StreetBump — so that residents and citizen activists could identify potholes and unsafe crosswalks.

And San Antonio created a Greenway Trail System for biking and hiking, to improve residents health and well-being.

The kinds of activity and legislation we’ve seen run the gamut. 

I know you are all bottom-line oriented, and I assure you that some of these policies do not cost one dime to the county or the state.

And here’s the best news of all — it’ll go along way with your constituents.

Indeed, in our survey, a majority of folks are more likely to stay in the state, and in their community, if they see improvements in the areas of health, housing, transportation and jobs.

For those of you who are thinking about joining the network, I hope you give us serious consideration.

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