Cities, towns and other localities in the AARP Network of Age-Friendly Communities program commit to improving their age-friendliness and submit to a rigorous membership assessment cycle.
Communities interested in joining the network are encouraged to contact their state AARP office. AARP state offices also work to identify cities, towns and counties AARP believes can commit to a continual cycle of improvement in the eight domains the World Health Organization (WHO) has identified as influencing the health and quality of life of older adults:
- Outdoor spaces and buildings
- Social participation
- Respect and social inclusion
- Civic participation and employment
- Communication and information
- Community support and health services
See the following World Health Organization documents for details:
- World Health Organization Checklist of Essential Features of Age-Friendly Cities (PDF)
- World Health Organization Guide to Age-Friendly Cities (PDF)
Indicators in the World Health Organization domains that also reflect the social impact objectives of AARP include:
- Increasing awareness about what the age 50+ population needs in order to maintain active, healthy and productive lives where they live
- Fostering dialogue, knowledge and actions that support the development of age-friendly communities across the United States
Being an age-friendly community requires a commitment to a cycle of continuous improvements. The “Getting Started” phase of the program typically lasts one or two years.
Initiating the effort requires the following steps:
1. Obtain the political commitment of the community’s elected officials
This includes acquiring a written pledge by the community executive (the mayor, county commissioner, etc.) to commit to a continual cycle of improvement. This letter should be sent to the community’s AARP state office. AARP will then advise the World Health Organization’s Global Network of Age-Friendly Cities and Communities. (To read examples of these letters and expressions of commitment, see “Community Letters of Commitment and Sample Resolutions.”)
2. Organize stakeholders
A successful age-friendly initiative is based on broad collaboration. An ideal group of stakeholders would include representation from non-profit organizations, businesses, government agencies and community partners and, of course age-50+ residents. For suggestions about whom to include, see “List of Potential Stakeholders to Engage in Age-Friendly Community Efforts."
For examples of successful engagements, see the AARP presentations:
- Engaging Older Persons: Georgia’s Macon-Bibb Age-Friendly Community Experiences (PDF)
- Engaging Stakeholders: City of Des Moines: Creating Great Places for All Ages (PDF)
3. Conduct assessments to identify needs
AARP has developed a survey that can be adapted by communities to help assess available resources and what residents view as important for successfully aging in place. The survey is designed to capture information consistent with the eight domains of a livable community as identified by the World Health Organization.
4. Establish an advisory committee that includes older adults
AARP state office staff members and volunteers can can help.
The ultimate goal of the AARP Network of Age-Friendly Communities is to increase the number of communities that support healthy aging, which will thereby improve the health, well-being, satisfaction and quality of life for older Americans. In an age-friendly community, policies, services, settings and structures support and enable people remain active as they age. This is achieved by:
- Recognizing the wide range of capacities and resources among older people
- Anticipating and responding flexibly to aging-related needs and preferences
- Respecting the decisions and lifestyle choices of age 50+ people
- Protecting and supporting older adults who are the most vulnerable
- Promoting the inclusion and contributions of older adults in all aspects of community life
And, because active aging is a life-long process, an age-friendly community is not just “elder-friendly.” Rather, an age-friendly community is friendly for people of all ages.
Next Step: Planning. »