Across Mississippi and the nation, AARP seeks to work with members to improve the quality of life in their communities. AARP Mississippi is facilitating community conversations with members, volunteers, community groups, and city leadership in Mound Bayou and Tupelo to identify ways to make life better for people over 50.
See also: Livable Communities
The AARP Mound Bayou chapter in the Delta has made a commitment to building a healthier and safe community. After a series of community conversations, AARP Mississippi facilitated a workshop called Active Living In a Health Community.
“We invited a diverse array of citizens, including city officials, law enforcement personnel, Kindergarten through grade 12 school personnel, healthcare providers, non-profit workers, and members of business, civic and faith-based organizations,” said Elaine Baker, Ph.D., MSW, AARP Mound Bayou Chapter President. Baker says open and honest discussions among all community members can ultimately lead to a better city. “We are working to build walking trails, refurbish community areas – both public and private – and being altogether more responsive to the safety needs of seniors and children,” she said.
Mound Bayou Mayor Kennedy Johnson said the centerpieces of the crusade for a healthier Mound Bayou include repairing streets and creating and replacing sidewalks that ultimately will lead to a walking-friendly community. “AARP is giving us lots of good ideas and helping us start the conversation among the elderly and other key members of our community,” Mayor Johnson said.
Baker said the discussions will be worth it. “When people invest themselves in solutions to challenges and respect contributions of all, the outcome is greater than the sum of the individual parts,” Baker said.
Meanwhile the AARP Tupelo chapter is conducting community conversations about the need for public transportation. The issue is a hot topic in Tupelo after a city transportation committee recently studied the need and made recommendations on implementing a public transit system. City Council did not approve any plans, citing financial reasons. However, many residents still are interested in studying public transportation options.
AARP Tupelo remains committed to the idea of a public transit system. “People see the need for it,” said Ora Baldwin, secretary of the AARP Tupelo chapter, “AARP has adopted this as our project and we will work with this for years.”
AARP Tupelo member Margaret Collins cites a reason for public transportation in the city, saying, “Tupelo is considered a retirement town. As such, we need to let people with limited mobility know that there will be alternate ways to get around.”
Currently, the only transportation services available are citizen run programs aimed at helping disabled individuals get places. “But there is a great need for transportation, and getting people around to grocery stores and shopping centers would be a big boost to both the economy of Tupelo and people in general,” Baldwin said. She and chapter members will take the case for a public transit system to neighborhood associations across Tupelo in an effort to foster support and spread the concerns of residents to all members of the community
The community conversations in Mound Bayou and Tupelo demonstrate that AARP chapters, volunteers, community members and city leaders can work together to make a difference in their cities.