West Chester, Pennsylvania, joined the AARP Network of Age-Friendly Communities in May 2016, but making the community an enriching place to live for all generations has been a goal for many years. Located in the state's southeastern region and part of Chester County, the community has a population of approximately 18,500.
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The region's action plan summarizes work undertaken from 2014 to 2016 by faculty and students at West Chester University in collaboration with West Chester's mayor, Borough Council and residents to assess the community's age-friendly features. (A summary and photos of the area's age-friendly activities can be found on pages 12 through 16 of the report.)
The report details needed work in the eight domains of livability that impact the quality of life for older adults. These areas include: outdoor spaces and buildings; transportation; housing; communication and social involvement; civic participation and employment; and community support and health services. To the eight domains, West Chester University added a ninth: ageism.
Using mapping research, the group analyzed demographics, services, and resources for older residents in the region. Interviews with community residents about their life experiences were also a key component of their work. The resulting action plan for 2016-2017 lays out program activities that promote greater awareness and understanding of older people in the community. The plan includes purpose of the activities, people involved, logistics, and dates for program events.
(The full 24-page report can be downloaded at right.)
KEY POINTS: WEST CHESTER RESIDENTS
- In 2015, 16 percent of Pennsylvania's population was over age 65, and the West Chester region's older population is expected to grow to 24 percent by 2020
- 11 percent of the area's population is over the age of 60
- The U.S. Census (2010) notes that 78 percent of the population is white; 12 percent are African American, and 13 percent are Hispanic
- ILEARN, an intergenerational learning and mentoring program that pairs older adults with students at West Chester University, will kicked off with the 2016-2017 school year
- World Elder Abuse Awareness Day on June 15, 2017, will provide an opportunity to increase understanding of the effects of abuse and neglect on older people
- An Aging Film Series planned for the Fall and Spring of 2016-2017 will increase intergenerational dialogue
- Grand Friends, a West Chester Area Senior Center program, will continue to promote intergenerational activities
HOW TO USE
The report provides helpful information about community demographics, resources and services that would be useful to residents, local businesses and health care professionals. An assessment of aging support services and programs, including a chart from the Chester County Department of Aging Services, can be found starting on page 6.
Report published April 2016. Summary by Jessica Ludwig