With adults age 45 and older making up 44 percent of its nearly one million residents, Missouri's St. Louis County joined the AARP Network of Age-Friendly Communities in June 2013. By doing so, the county (which borders but does not include the city of St. Louis) pledged to advance the quality of life for all residents by assessing itself against specific community features identified by the World Health Organization.
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That step kicked off a two-year assessment and planning phase for the county. The "St. Louis County Age-friendly Community Action Plan" is the culmination of that community engagement, research and analysis. A county planning team led the initiative, and a 24-member Citizen's Advisory Taskforce helped shape the plan. Multiple community outreach efforts — including meetings, strategy sessions and workshops — brought citizens, public officials and agency representatives together to discuss ways to improve the county.
"The journey to develop the plan has been a rewarding one," Lori J. Fiegel of the St. Louis County Department of Planning told AARP. "Not only do we have a deeper understanding of our older adults, we have created and strengthened relationships with citizens and community partners and reimagined how our government will serve older adults in the future."
The plan identifies four areas of focus (beginning on page 23): Health & Well Being, Social & Civic Engagement, Mobility & Accessibility and Safe & Attractive Neighborhoods. Goals, actions, departments and a timeframe are identified for each area of focus. An additional overarching goal of the plan is to help older adults meet basic needs and age with dignity.
The report, which includes data on the county’s older adult population (page 11) and community (page 19), can be downloaded at right.
KEY POINTS: ST. LOUIS COUNTY RESIDENTS
- An adult age 65 or older is head of household in 95,964 households in the county; of those households, 45 percent live alone.
- Home ownership among older adults is approximately 80 percent.
- Nearly two-thirds of the housing owned by the county’s senior citizens was built before 1970 (hence most is not "age-friendly" for aging-in-place).
- Nearly 90 percent of the county’s senior citizens have a driver’s license.
KEY POINTS: PLAN GOALS & STRATEGIES
- Increase access to primary care and improve respiratory and cardiovascular health outcomes among adults with health disparities
- Increase social engagement by connecting residents to facilities, programs and resources through outreach materials and multi-generational interaction
- Encourage businesses to adopt age-friendly practices through a business certification program and best practices template
- Create a St. Louis County Older Adults Commission to evaluate and provide guidance on policies and programs relevant to older residents
- Increase older adults' mobility by assessing available transportation services, convening a forum on senior transportation and creating a web resource that links services and older adults
- Develop and promote affordable property maintenance and home repair programs through a checklist of preventative home maintenance and investigate the potential of establishing a "volunteer repair person" program
- Promote age-friendly facility audits to ensure public buildings and parks are accessible for all
HOW TO USE
The Action Plan Matrix is a neatly organized listing of the domains being worked on (e.g. Social & Civic Engagement), the goal, the actions that will be taken to meet the goal and by which department(s) and within what timeframe. The last two pages of the PDF identifies some of organizations the community can partner within each of the domains.
To help municipalities support the plan’s goals, the county has created an age-friendly "Municipal Toolkit" with templates, models and how-to's for supporting age-friendly initiatives. Annual progress reports, development of key quality of life indicators and community satisfaction surveys will help measure the effectiveness and success of the action plan.
Says Fiegel: "The response to the plan has been very positive and enthusiastic. We look forward to immediately beginning our implementation."
Report published June 2015. Summary by Jessica Ludwig
Page updated February 2016