Creating Communities for All Ages in Oregon

Nancy LeaMond — AARP Executive Vice President, State and National Group — addresses the 'Governing' roundtable event in Portland

Unfortunately, when we partnered with Governing to survey local leaders across the country, only 16 percent said their communities were very, or extremely, prepared for the next 25 years. 

Despite the fact that communities know they need to change, many are doing little or nothing about it.

People lack the access and proximity to the services they want and need as they get older, their homes are not conducive to aging in place, and they don’t have accessible transit and transportation options.

But, that’s not to say that the majority of community leaders do not see the value in an age-friendly environment. In fact, 56 percent indicated that it was important to create a community for all ages.

Based on our experience across the country, we know that communities and different sectors are in varying stages when it comes to preparedness.

The good news is that we’ve seen progress. Indeed, there are positive things happening right here in Portland.

Portland was the first US city to join the World Health Organization’s Network of age-friendly communities.

The Portland City Council is implementing an action plan to address zoning, housing and pedestrian safety.

Your public transit system, Trimet, has adjusted its routing to make transit more accessible to people with mobility challenges.

And some builders in Portland and Medford are applying universal design principles as they construct new homes — so people can age in place, with independence.

Indeed, we applaud groups like Cedar Sinai, which recently converted several downtown Portland buildings into quality affordable housing for seniors and adults with disabilities.

SO, these are just five sectors — but we know that EVERY part of our country and our economy will be affected by, and play a role in, the aging of America. 

From design to healthcare to education ... no corner of society will go untouched.

At the same time that we look at major institutions, we can’t lose sight of the fact that some of the most interesting things are happening from the ground up.

Look at what’s happened with Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities — including Village Northwest, here in Portland — where neighbors are working with neighbors to ensure their community has the services to help them age in place.

We’re seeing more and more cohabitation arrangements, like the Golden Girls.

We’ve even seen a revival of interest in certain places for mobile homes as a preferred housing option for older adults. 

And it’s worth pointing out that a lot of the innovation we’re seeing involves generations working side-by-side with other generations. 

A great example is Bridge Meadows, a community in your Portsmouth neighborhood designed to bring together three generations to support families adopting children from foster care. 

At the same time, Bridge Meadows gives its elderly residents a sense of community and purpose.

Just as states and communities are laboratories for innovation, so too are the citizens  who band together to bring about change.

So yes, we’ve seen progress. But we know there is much more to be done.

AARP is committed to working in the Portland metro area, and across the state, to make Oregon a more livable place for people of all ages.

I encourage you all to visit AARP’s "Great Places for all Ages" website — aarp.org/livable — where you will find best practices, case studies and guidance.

And we want to hear from YOU — which is why we’re here today — to discuss options, best practices and strategies.

We are at the epicenter of a demographic transformation — a very special moment in time. 

We know that EVERY part of our country and our economy, and every major institution and sector, will play a role in the aging of America. 

And when future historians look back on the first half of the 21st century, they will judge today’s leaders on how we responded to the challenges, and seized the advantages, of our aging country ... for the benefit of today's generations, and for generations to come.

Thank you so much

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