Communities across the nation are unprepared to address the challenges and opportunities associated with an increasingly aging population. Local officials need reliable, unbiased information and resources to help them plan for and achieve community-based changes that benefit people of all ages.
That's why AARP and ICMA (the International City/County Management Association) are working together to reach, educate and engage city, town and county executive managers on strategies for creating and supporting livable communities. By raising issue awareness and offering incremental approaches to change, the two associations will help local officials foster communities that are livable for all residents.
ICMA's mission is to create excellence in local governance by developing and fostering professional management to build sustainable communities that improve people's lives. ICMA provides member support, publications, data and information, peer and results-oriented assistance, and training and professional development to 9,500 appointed city, town and county leaders and other individuals and organizations throughout the world.
As a nonprofit that works to improve the lives of older adults, AARP is well aware that one in three Americans is now age 50 or older and that by 2030 one out of every five people in the United States (or more than 70 million people) will be 65-plus. AARP also knows that the vast majority of older adults want to remain in their homes and communities.
"This is a great opportunity to bring together local government leaders and community stakeholders who are passionate about this topic," says ICMA Executive Director Bob O’Neill. "The reality is that an aging citizenry is something that every single city, town, village and county will need to adapt for in the coming years. We are excited about the potential of this collaboration to raise awareness about this issue and, most importantly, to provide resources that empower communities to create opportunities for all of their residents."
Nancy LeaMond, AARP Executive Vice President of Communities, States and National Affairs agrees: "We are delighted to launch this collaboration with ICMA. A street that's made safer for an older adult to walk across is safer for a person walking to work, a parent pushing a stroller and a child riding a bicycle to school. By working together, ICMA and AARP can better equip community leaders with the information and tools they need to make age-friendly, livable communities a reality."
Following are just a few of the free resources currently offered by AARP and ICMA:
- A Blueprint for Action: Developing Livable Communities for All Ages: This comprehensive blueprint, developed by ICMA in conjunction with Partners for Livable Communities, provides communities with detailed procedures and practical solutions in the areas of housing, planning and zoning, transportation, health and supportive services, public safety and civic engagement. Drawing on the most innovative and effective practices of communities throughout the country, the report demonstrates that every area of local government has a role to play in creating livable communities for people of all ages.
- The Maturing of America: Communities Moving Forward for an Aging Population: This report builds on a survey administered in 2010 by ICMA and assesses progress against benchmarks established in the first "Maturing of America" survey, which was conducted in 2005. The survey results revealed that there has been limited progress in the number of communities that have undertaken a comprehensive assessment to create a livable community for all ages. The report urges leaders at all levels of government, particularly the local level, to move forward energetically, if incrementally, to address the challenges at hand. It provides examples of local partnerships between the government and community leaders — e.g., area agencies on aging, universities, businesses, nonprofit organizations, other public sector entities and older adults themselves — that have broken through the current stalemate.
- Knowledge Network: Age-Friendly Topic Page: The Knowledge Network (developed and hosted jointly by ICMA and the Alliance for Innovation) is a free, customized social network for all local government stakeholders. Each topic page — including one on age-friendly communities — includes documents that discuss best practices, sample policies and survey research. There are also opportunities for interactions through a question-and-answer feature, blog posts and groups with specific interests.
- AARP.org/livable: The award-winning website of AARP Livable Communities (you're on it right now!) is an active, centralized, online repository of information and resources about age-friendly, livable communities. Curated for use by elected officials, policy makers, legislative staff, community leaders and citizen activists, the site contains interviews, slideshows, how-to's, shareable downloads (including the AARP Livability Fact Sheets series and "In a Livable Community" poster and flyer), a subject-based archive, tool kits and advocacy resources. The website's users are often key decision makers who help shape the future of their communities. Stay informed by subscribing to the free AARP Livable Communities Monthly e-Newsletter.
- AARP Network of Livable Communities: An affiliate program of the World Health Organization’s Global Network of Age-Friendly Cities and Communities, the AARP Network of Age-Friendly Communities encourages leaders to improve their community’s quality of life in "8 Domains of Livability" that range from transportation to housing to employment; it requires a rigorous program to plan for and implement community change. The AARP Network has so far enrolled more than 55 communities representing more than 30 million people. (Visit the AARP age-friendly network's Member List to see which towns, cities and counties are already participating.)
- AARP Livability Index: Find the Livability Score of any U.S. address, zip code, town or city name by using the AARP Livability Index, a new online tool that calculates a score based on the latest data and indicators about an area's housing, economy, transportation, community services and more. Elected officials, appointed managers, municipal planners, community advocates and interested residents can customize the index to find scores based on the features that matter to them most.
In the months ahead, ICMA and AARP Livable Communities will share additional resources with their members and readers. Since both organizations publish interviews with community leaders and feature "how-to" articles about livability-related projects, suggestions are welcome. Get in touch by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org and/or email@example.com.
Learn how to check the "livability score" of any address in the U.S.