AARP Livable Communities supports the efforts of neighborhoods, towns, cities and even states to become Great Places for All Ages.
We believe that communities should provide safe, walkable streets; age-friendly housing and transportation options; access to needed services; and opportunities for residents of all ages to participate in community life.
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Our work is driven by research that shows the vast majority of people age 50 and older want to stay in their homes and communities for as long as possible. Well-designed, livable communities promote better health and sustain economic growth, and they make for happier, healthier residents — of every age, in all life stages.
To empower communities nationwide, we share our knowledge by working with relevant nonprofit organizations, business interests and philanthropic groups to raise awareness about the need for age-friendly, livable communities.
We also work closely with elected officials, policy makers, community leaders, citizen activists and people age-50+ in our advocacy, policy and education efforts involving issues related to housing, mobility and transportation, and land use and planning.
Because livable communities work generally takes place at the local level, where many decisions are made about community design, development and infrastructure, much of AARP’s work is implemented at the state and local level by AARP state staff.
Following are our key initiatives:
AARP Network of Age-Friendly Communities
Established in April 2012, the AARP Network of Age-Friendly Communities is an affiliate program of the World Health Organization’s Global Network of Age-Friendly Cities and Communities, which encourages leaders to improve the quality of life in their communities in eight key livability domains. The AARP Network has enrolled more than 20 communities so far and is working to double its membership in 2014.
Working in partnership with Governing magazine, AARP convenes roundtable events with state and local elected officials, legislative staffs, non-profit organizations, educators, foundations and business leaders. We share information about successful community initiatives and engage attendees in moderated discussions about finding the right partners for achieving livable communities-focused change. Our four roundtable cities for 2014 are St. Louis, Mo., Jacksonville, Fla., Portland, Ore., and New York, N.Y.
AARP Active Living Workshops
Working in partnership with the nationally recognized “town-making” experts of the Walkable and Livable Communities Institute (WALC), we promote stakeholder-driven change through AARP Active Living Workshops. These workshops, which often involve a community “walk audit,” help stakeholders identify where and how to improve the livability of their cities, towns and neighborhoods. AARP State offices can help local groups and municipalities implement the recommendations that come out of the workshops. Communities in Vermont, Georgia and Tennessee are among the workshop participants now working to widen sidewalks, redesign roads and revitalize downtown areas.
Home Design and Modifications
AARP works to promote the awareness and acceptance of “universal design,” which is an approach to home and product design that encourages ease of use and accessibility, regardless of an individual’s physical ability, strength or age. AARP’s home design efforts typically involve state and local advocacy work to introduce universal design and related ordinances and influence the permitting process. (See the Livable Communities Advocacy section below.) Working with influencers such as building industry professionals, AARP encourages the adoption of good design practices. Programs including our popular AARP Home Fit Workshops, which teach people about home safety and universal design, provide needed consumer education and outreach.
Livable Communities Advocacy
People of all ages benefit from having convenient, barrier-free access to buildings, streets, services and green spaces. AARP’s advocacy work promotes model legislation and includes efforts to adopt Complete Streets (also known as Safe Streets) legislation at the state and local levels; transportation planning, coordination and funding that addresses the needs of all residents (including those living in rural communities); and housing design standards that make homes accessible, easier to use and more livable for people of all ages and physical abilities. To encourage the enactment of consumer- and age-friendly policies, AARP has developed advocacy tool kits that focus on Complete Streets, rural transportation and inclusive home design.
Public Policy Institute (PPI)
The AARP Public Policy Institute (PPI) develops evidence-based policy analysis and solutions that serve as the basis of AARP’s livable communities initiatives. PPI examines critical public policy issues that affect the ability of people to successfully age in their homes and communities, regardless of their level of ability. The institute convenes key stakeholders and policy experts to engage in thoughtful discussions that can inform policy makers, researchers and program administrators, as well as AARP’s board of directors and national policy council. Specific research focuses on Complete Streets, transit-oriented development, human services transportation coordination, affordable and accessible housing, and state-based livability policies and practices. PPI is currently developing a Livability Index that will serve as both a measurement tool for AARP and government efforts to improve communities, and as a way for citizens to gauge the age-friendly readiness and appeal of their own community.
AARP Foundation: Housing and Isolation
As part of its work on housing, AARP Foundation is developing strategies to preserve the adequacy and affordability of existing homes and increase the supply of suitable housing for vulnerable older adults. Nationwide, millions of low-income homeowners struggle to make the critical repairs and home modifications needed to safely age in place. Grants provided through the AARP Foundation’s Home Repair Accelerator Program address this issue by supporting new models of sustainable and low-cost home repair assistance. In addition, the foundation has awarded LeadingAge, a nonprofit committed to “expanding the world of possibilities for aging,” a grant to support linkages between health and supportive services for the low-income senior housing population.
Isolation may impact as many as one in five adults age 50-plus, and the health consequences are comparable to smoking and obesity. Communities can help prevent and reduce isolation by providing walkable streets, suitable housing and transportation options, access to key services and opportunities to participate in community activities. To help alleviate isolation among older adults, AARP Foundation is conducting research and developing strategies to enable people to stay connected to their communities as they age.
AARP Livable Communities Online Resources
The website aarp.org/livable is an active, centralized online repository of information and resources about age-friendly, livable communities. (You're on the site right now!) Curated for use by elected officials, policy makers, legislative staffs, community leaders and citizen activists, the site contains case studies, state and local action plans, advocacy resources and guidance on how to implement and fund initiatives. Wrap-up summaries of in-depth resources allow visitors to review key points and how-to-use information before downloading lengthy documents. In addition, AARP Livable Communities publishes a free monthly e-newsletter, regularly posts newsworthy content to the Livable Communities blog, and shares information with followers and others on Twitter via @LivableCmnty.
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