The 2013 AARP Network of Age-Friendly Communities Network Conference was an opportunity for community representatives and AARP staff to share valuable experiences, advice and training. Participants presented about both the challenges and successes encountered across all stages of the planning, implementation and evaluation process, and they engaged in an open dialogue about the region-specific and general benefits of the program.
AARP Age-Friendly Community Updates (Part 1)
Suffolk County (Long Island, New York), population 1.4 million, adopted the first countywide Complete Streets policy, an inclusive design mandate on affordable housing, and an incentive ordinance to allow expedited zoning for builders who use inclusive design standards in private dwellings. County officials are supporting transit-oriented development into downtown areas while maintaining the surrounding area’s rural feel. Further age-friendly efforts on Long Island are occurring at both the town (Brookhaven) and village levels (Great Neck Plaza).
Westchester County (New York), population 900,000, has nine regional Livable Community Connection sites throughout the county that are working to promote education and change within the community. When Westchester conducted a Complete Streets week, the work resulted in a countywide Complete Streets ordinance. In the award-winning Caregiver Coaching program, trained volunteers mentor family caregivers, helping them understand their options and make informed decisions about caring for an older or disabled person. There is a significant engagement of volunteers throughout the county for caregiving support villages, which bring together and encourage residents who have common interests to identify community priorities.
Portland (Oregon) was one of the first cities that the World Health Organization reached out to in 2006 upon launching the World Health Organization’s Age-Friendly Cities and Communities Program. Portland was grandfathered into the AARP Network of Age-Friendly Communities when the program debuted in 2012. The Portland State University Institute of Aging conducts focus group research with older adults to get a sense of their priorities and how they experience the city. Portland has recently completed the development of its action plan.
Age-Friendly In Depth at AARP
AARP in the Community: Jeanne Anthony, AARP Education & Outreach project advisor, introduced the AARP Livable Communities initiative and expanded on some of the AARP resources used to promote age-friendly work, including workshops and information focusing on topics of Home Fit, universal design, active living and Complete Streets.
AARP Policy: Rodney Harrell, senior strategic policy advisor for the AARP Public Policy Institute, outlined the principles that support AARP’s Livable Communities work. These principles are designed to improve communities and ensure they work for all people. He also discussed the forthcoming AARP Livability Index, which is being designed as a tool for assessing the livability factors within communities and will support community evaluation and improvement efforts.
Experienced Cities Panel
Deborah Stein, principal planner for the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability in Portland, Oregon, gave a presentation about Portland’s experiences with the AARP Age-Friendly Communities Network. During the planning process, Portland officials attempted to identify what kind of impact the city’s built environment has on its residents’ health. Portland has been fairly successful in achieving a holistic approach that incorporates both the social and physical environment of the city.
Lydia Hernandez-Velez, Philadelphia’s deputy managing director for aging, spoke about age-friendly efforts currently underway in her city. In a February 2013 assessment of Philadelphia, officials identified key areas that need improvement. These include: the access and reliability of transportation; access to affordable housing units and retrofits of row homes; a lack of community engagement with non-English speaking seniors. Hernandez-Velez and other participating officials are working with groups including the Philadelphia Corporation for Aging to foster a more informed discussion with older residents about the programs and services that can support their ability to age in place.
Next: Day 1 continued. »