Each community — depending on its size, resources, socioeconomic conditions and cultural diversity — is going to have different ways of approaching the opportunity to join the AARP Network of Age-Friendly Communities.
To determine if a particular community should begin the process of joining the network, AARP state office staff will consider a variety of factors related to a community’s leadership and overall readiness. For instance:
- Is there political acceptance — from elected leaders (the mayor, city or town council members) and buy-in from community stakeholders — that age-friendly improvements are needed?
- Is the community currently involved in a public project or initiative? Encouraging a community to think about how it will incorporate projects into existing funded projects or future capital expenditures can help address financial concerns. It’s also important to assess the community’s capacity and political will to actually take action, not just conduct studies or develop plans.
Other examples of leadership or readiness include:
- An elected official raises concerns about the community’s preparedness for its aging population
- Existing non-governmental organizations or grassroots activism organizations are championing the issue
- The community is a grant recipient from, for example, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Safe Routes to School, local foundations, etc.
- Master plans or bicycling/pedestrian plans have been developed but not yet implemented
- There’s an acknowledged need for economic development, such as downtown or Main Street improvements or supports to local businesses
- There are transportation concerns, such as pedestrian safety issues or high traffic fatalities
- The community has bike paths or lanes
- There’s Safe Routes to School potential (i.e. programs that promote walking and biking to schools)
- The community has sizable age 50+ population
- There is an acknowledgement of infrastructure issues
- There are known walkability problems (e.g. poor quality sidewalks)
- There’s an acknowledged need for traffic calming
- The community recognizes that it is underutilizing its assets, such as trails, parks, community centers and health facilities
- Local colleges or universities are present but not fully integrated into the community
- There are health issues within the community, such as high rates of obesity and diabetes, low physical activity rates, poor nutrition or food deserts (i.e. limited or no access to healthy food sources)
- There are safety and security issues
- There are new development opportunities in the works, such as a new stadium or similar being built, or neighborhood redevelopment or gentrification projects