To support this work, we have developed a robust set of materials to develop Complete Streets campaigns. In addition, we have created a model for elevating this policy issue that involves the following steps: conducting surveys to understand the behavior and additional transportation needs within the community; using these assessments to build the case for change; building diverse coalitions across a variety of stakeholder groups to support legislation; and then advocating for legislation. This model of citizen and stakeholder engagement to support advocacy has proven highly successful in generating volunteers and broadening our connections to non-traditional partners. In New York last year, 2000 AARP volunteers surveyed 500 intersections on one week, resulting in upgrades to roadways all across the state.
Community Engagement Workshops
We also work to promote stakeholder-driven change through our community engagement workshops with nationally recognized “town-making” experts such as Dan Burden of the Walkable and Livable Communities Institute. These workshops, which revolve around walking audits of communities, have been a powerful tool to engage stakeholders in identifying how they would like to improve the livability of their community. They typically result in a community that feels empowered to make the changes they have identified. Our state offices then help the community follow through with the implementation of the recommendations coming out of the workshop. As a result, communities in Vermont, Georgia, and Tennessee are currently implementing recommendations such as widening sidewalks, redesigning roads, and revitalizing downtown areas.
AARP’s Network of Age Friendly Communities
In April, 2012, we launched the AARP Network of Age Friendly Communities, a program affiliated with the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Global Network of Age-Friendly Cities and Communities. Created by the WHO in 2006 to prepare cities for their rapidly aging populations, the program encourages leaders to improve the quality of life in their communities in eight key domains that closely align with AARP’s livable communities priorities: transportation, housing, social participation, respect & inclusion, community support & health services, civic participation & employment, communication & information, as well as outdoor spaces. The program currently has over 500 participating communities around the world.
The Age-Friendly Communities program provides a framework for AARP to engage local officials and other stakeholders in the discussion about how to prepare for an aging population. In participating states, AARP’s role is therefore to identify appropriate communities and facilitate their application to join the Network.
There are currently eight states with communities in the AARP Age-Friendly Network: New York, NY (and several other NY communities); Philadelphia, PA; Washington, DC; Macon, GA; Des Moines, IA; Wichita, KS; Austin, TX; and Portland, OR. In 2013, Rhode Island, Colorado, Georgia, Vermont, Michigan and Hawaii all expect to enroll additional communities in the Network.