Mayor Betsy Price has often enjoyed cycling to work at Fort Worth City Hall. The 70-year-old's choice goes beyond preserving the environment or getting fit. Three years ago, Price told Bicycling magazine that her daily rides help her take the pulse of her city. “When you put Spandex on a body like mine, people will tell you almost anything,” she said. Plus, “cycling lets me talk to people who don't normally engage, and I see a different view of our roads and parks when I'm riding."
Fort Worth at a Glance
- Population: 898,919
- Portion of population 50 and older: 25.1 percent
- Median home value: $189,300
- Median household income: $58,448
- Unemployment rate: 3.7 percent
The mayor has learned about the concerns of older residents, and she takes pride in her north Texas community's designation by AARP as an Age-Friendly Community. More than 9 percent of the population is 65 or older, and that is projected to reach 30 percent by 2030. “We're changing the quality of life here. We're very pleased with how it's going."
An example of the renaissance is a plan by the city and a local nonprofit to revitalize Near Southside, an older section of the city, and stop suburban flight. Six nearby hospitals have expanded services in the mixed-use neighborhood, and the city has committed to pedestrian-oriented urban plans.
"We're trying to create a community where people can walk and where people want to live,” says Mike Brennan, president of Near Southside Inc., the 415-member nonprofit that is involved in the development plan. Dozens of older buildings have been renovated into modern structures while keeping their historic charm. A 2016 Brookings Institution report said the restaurants and shops on the neighborhood's Magnolia Avenue “rival many main streets in big cities around the country."
Elsewhere, the city has inaugurated a “blue zone” program aimed at creating healthier lifestyles — bike racks to promote cycling, vending machines that contain at least half “healthy” products, assistance with starting community gardens. Anne VanBeber, a professor at Texas Christian University and a licensed dietitian, says blue zone grocery stores help older shoppers pick healthful local food.
Fort Worth has created an application for firms to be designated age-friendly. They can qualify by having aisles and spaces that can accommodate a wheelchair or walker, ramps and elevators, products kept within reach of patrons, staff trained to relate to older shoppers in person and on the phone. So far, more than 25 businesses and organizations have qualified.
On a recent afternoon, Monta Scaggs, who is in her 70s, sits in her motorized wheelchair in the lobby of the world-renowned Kimbell Art Museum, which recently received the age-friendly designation. Fort Worth is her hometown, and she praised efforts to make it age-friendly. “A lot of visitors need help,” she says, “and everything is easier to get to."
Ten years ago, after he retired from one job, Gerald Zenick, 73, started a mobile fitness operation, Working with Weights. He has a city contract to drive his portable free-weights gym to community and dementia centers. He trains people “55 up to 95” and focuses on “functional fitness” — improving posture, balance and core strength — in 45-minute sessions with a one-minute break “entirely on their feet.” He says clients have noticed their bone density improve and their blood pressure decrease.
Cheri Morgan, 63, started her candy business, Wildtoad Toffee, six years ago. She often works with much younger entrepreneurs and finds the business community to be age-friendly. “I've never felt out of place and I'm usually with younger people,” she says. “It's not like, ‘Oh, she's old — forget it.’ Here, old people have a chance to be more old.”