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2021 AARP Livable Communities Workshop: Engaging Older Adults

This online event is over. Links to videos from the two-day gathering are available below

People age 50-plus enhance communities through their skills and life lessons, influence and involvement. Communities with engaged older residents are more livable for people of all ages.

2021 AARP Livable Communities Workshop

Meet the Keynote Speakers

Keynote speakers Lynn M. Ross and James Rojas

Courtesy Photos

Lynn M. Ross and James Rojas

This free, two-day, online AARP Livable Communities workshop showcased effective strategies, initiatives and programs that engage older adults and solve pressing community problems.

Day 1 Welcome — and Keynote Address by Lynn M. Ross about "Purposeful Engagement" 

Lynn M. Ross is a nationally recognized urbanist and the founder of Spirit for Change Consulting, where she works across sectors with organizations on a mission to create the equitable policies and practices that sustain just places.

Day 2 Welcome — and Keynote Address by James Rojas about "Innovative Engagement" 

James Rojas is an urban planner, community activist, artist and founder of Place It! He has developed an innovative public engagement and community-visioning method that uses artmaking, storytelling and objects to help individuals and communities find core values. 

Plenary Panel — Collaborating With Community

This panel featured approaches for unearthing solutions to community challenges with residents and government leaders.

MODERATOR: Debra Tyler-Horton, State Director, AARP Georgia, leads the state office's work to develop age-friendly communities, support family caregivers, strengthen financial resiliency, and protect residents from fraud, scams and identity theft.

  • Jonathan Pacheco Bell, Associate Planner, Sagecrest Planning+Environmental, has served as a street-level urban planner in Los Angeles County since 2006. He created "Embedded Planning," a praxis that increases public participation for historically marginalized communities. (Read an AARP interview with Bell to learn more.)
  • Amanda O’Rourke, Executive Director, 8 80 Cities, is a key architect of the 8 80 concept and has worked on numerous public space projects around the world. 8 80 Cities, a long-time AARP partner, is the co-author with AARP of Creating Parks and Public Spaces for People of All Ages.  
  • Doug Hooker, Executive Director, Atlanta Regional Commission, heads the planning organization for the Atlanta region, which consists of 11 counties and 75 cities. He oversees programs about transportation, community development, land use, aging services and more.

Plenary Panel — Collectively Taking Action

This panel discussed strategies for getting to work in order to generate results and trust.

MODERATOR: Danielle Arigoni, Director of Livable Communities, AARP Government Affairs, leads AARP’s efforts to strengthen and align advocacy at the federal, state and local levels to create more livable communities.

  • Peter Holtgrave, Senior Director for Public Health Infrastructure and Systems, National Association of County and City Health Officials, oversees the association's Performance Improvement, Workforce Development, and Health Equity and Social Justice portfolios.
  • Atalaya Sergi, Director, AmeriCorps Seniors, leads the the federal grant-making office that promotes and engages people age 55 or older in outcomes-oriented service throughout the United States.  
  • Ifeoma Ebo, Urban Designer, Strategist and Founding Director, Creative Urban Alchemy, is an internationally sought-after consultant on equitable design for governments and civic institutions. She has held leadership roles in initiatives funded by the United Nations, FIFA (the Fédération Internationale de Football Association) and the New York City Mayor's Office. 

Plenary Panel — Celebrating Impact 

This panel highlighted examples of demonstrating and communicating success with real results.

MODERATOR: Rodney Harrell, Ph.D., Vice President of Family, Home and Community, AARP Public Policy Institute, leads a group that provides thought leadership on livable communities and long-term services and supports by developing research, policy analysis, and innovative solutions, and is AARP's lead on housing strategy.

  • Dionne Baux, Vice President of Urban Development, Main Street America, plays a key leadership role to expand technical service offerings to neighborhood commercial districts.  She has expertise engaging community stakeholders in community economic development.

  • Andy Toy, Policy Director, Philadelphia Association of Community Development Corporations, is the founder of United Voices for Philadelphia, a civic engagement coalition. His recent projects with AARP include the launch of an Elders’ Story Café in a neighborhood green space, led by the Southeast Asian Mutual Assistance Association Coalition, and advocacy for housing solutions that benefit older residents. (Watch an AARP video about the café and read an AARP interview with Toy.)
  • Beth Blauer, Associate Vice Provost for Public Sector Innovation, Johns Hopkins University, is an internationally recognized expert on government performance programs that can improve people’s lives by bringing data into governmental decision-making processes.  

Looking Forward: Inclusive Engagement and Recovery from the COVID-19 Pandemic

This conversation focused on how mayors and local leaders have prioritized engagement throughout the pandemic and are engaging residents in their decision-making process as they allocate funds from the American Rescue Plan Act.

  • Nancy LeaMondExecutive Vice President and Chief Advocacy & Engagement Officer, AARP, has responsibility for driving AARP’s social mission on behalf of Americans 50-plus and their families. She leads the government affairs and legislative campaigns for AARP, widely seen as one of the nation's most powerful advocacy organizations.

  • Stephen Benjamin, Mayor, Columbia, South Carolina, has led the city since 2010 and its enrollment (in 2017) in the AARP Network of Age-Friendly States and Communities. He holds several national leadership roles including as the former president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors. 

  • Satya Rhodes-ConwayMayor, Madison, Wisconsin, has extensive experience in local policy and practice, having worked with mayors across the country and served three terms on the Madison Common Council. Elected in 2019, she is the city’s second female and the first openly LGBTQ mayor.

Innovation Showcases

Featuring more than a dozen speedy presentations by livability experts, local leaders and community volunteers.

Find community engagement resources recommended by the workshop presenters

Page published September 2021, updated October 2021

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