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Photo Album: Have a Seat!

Here's a look at just some of the local improvements achieved through the AARP Community Challenge

Public places to sit for a bit make communities, spaces and places more livable for people of all ages. The AARP Community Challenge has funded lots of needed places to sit — in parks and on plazas, along hiking trails and at transit stops. The variety and creativity displayed through public seating projects is inspiring. (Click on the image to "visit" the community.)

Berlin, Wisconsin

Six artistically-painted benches in Berlin, Wyoming, created with funds from the AARP Community Challenge

Photos from the City of Berlin (Grantee, 2019 AARP Community Challenge)

To bring attention to its lesser-known parks, the city hosted a bench decorating contest followed by a scavenger hunt to find the benches. Boy Scouts and high school students in wood-working classes built the six benches, local artists and community groups decorated them. 

Sandpoint, Idaho

Three older adults pose with a new wooden bench installed in an Idaho forest

Photo from the Kaniksu Land Trust (Grantee, 2019 AARP Community Challenge)

Four benches were placed along the "universal access" trail in the Pine Street Woods, a destination that is regularly visited by people of all ages and mobility abilities. To bring attention to the trail's debut, volunteers with the Kaniksu Land Trust led walks and snowshoe tours. 

Greenfield, Massachusetts

Two metal benches installed near a colorful sculpture in a spot called Fiske Park

Photo from the City of Greenfield (Grantee, 2020 AARP Community Challenge)

The city removed 250-square-feet of asphalt from a parking lot in its downtown and turned it into parking for people by creating the Fiske Avenue Pocket Park. The space has benches, a chess table (the game store across the street is the keeper of the playing pieces), a bike repair station, a pollinator garden and a quirky bee sculpture (pictured). The small-scale success helped in securing a $200,000 grant from the state's Department of Transportation to relocate the parking lot and expand the park. The centrally located green space has enabled Greenfield to both live up to its name and declare about itself: "There are many reasons to PARK yourself in Greenfield for the day!"

Hot Springs, Arkansas

A musically-themed bench, acquired with funds from the AARP Community Challenge, was installed in front of a colorful mural in Hot Springs, Arkansas

Photo from the City of Hot Springs (Grantee, 2020 AARP Community Challenge)

To bring more attention to the musical history mural along Malvern Avenue, the city installed a new sidewalk, plaque, art, greenery and musically-inspired bench. The work was among the first reinvestments in an area that was known from the 1930s to 1960s as “Black Broadway” due to its many entertainment venues and frequent performances by legendary entertainers including Count Baise, Duke Ellington, B.B. King and others. 

Roswell, New Mexico

Two views of a flatbed truck delivering benches created from plastic bottlecaps (as described in the also pictured flyer)

Photos from Main Street Roswell (2021 AARP Community Challenge)

For several years, MainStreet Roswell collected, sorted and stored plastic bottle caps and container lids (see inset photo) for an effort it called "Bottlecaps to Benches." Once a significant number were collected, bags full of caps and lids were loaded onto a tractor trailer (top image) and driven to a Green Tree Plastics in Indiana, where they were exchanged for 30 benches (bottom image) made from recycled plastic. The benches were placed throughout the city's downtown, which is visited by well over 200,000 tourists a year. "Our summer in the Southwestern desert can be brutal with daytime temperatures reaching up to 112 F," notes Molly Boyles, a MainStreet Roswell board member. "Seating has always been lacking for those needing to take a break."

Whitesburg, Kentucky

A blue, AARP-branded bench was installed in Whitesburg, Kentucky, with funding from the AARP Community Challenge

Photo courtesy Appalshop (Grantee, 2021 AARP Community Challenge)

The AARP Community Challenge grant funded four benches (manufactured by a local metalworks shop) and a stretch of blacktopping along the newly improved Tanglewood Trail, a three mile path that goes through the city's downtown. The trail provides residents with a lighted walkway that has even, at-grade pavement. “By connecting all of our different businesses together, it connects one end of town to the other,” explains Mayor Tiffany Craft. “A lot of people who do not drive have access now.” Notes Valerie Ison Horn, director of the Cowan Community Action Group: “It’s another way of tying a healthy community together with fresh foods and physical activity.” Matching funds raised by local businesses and individual donors surpassed the funds given by the AARP Community Challenge grant and will be put toward expanding the trail to the top of Pine Mountain, where it will join the 1,800 mile Great Eastern Trail.

  • Watch a video about this project

Chino Valley and Fort Defiance, Arizona

Two bus shelters funded by the AARP Community Challenge

Photos from Yavapai Regional Transit (Grantee, 2017 AARP Community Challenge) | Navajo United Way (Grantee, 2021 AARP Community Challenge)

Yavapai Regional Transit in Chino Valley and the Navajo Transit System in Fort Defiance used AARP grant funds to install much-needed bus shelters. On the day of the installation in Chino Valley, a frequent rider (pictured) asked if she could sit on the bench just to try it out. Navajo Nation acquired eight shelters (the inset image shows an example), which are just a fraction of what's needed to serve the people living on the vast, remote expanse of tribal land. 

Jackson Hole, Wyoming

Before and after images of a bus stop in Jackson Hole, Wyoming

Photos from the Senior Center of Jackson Hole (Grantee, 2017 AARP Community Challenge)

While it’s true that older people often need to take a break when they’re out and about, so do toddlers, pregnant women, people who are on their feet all day, anyone wearing uncomfortable shoes. The list goes on. Several dozen older adults and people with disabilities live across the street from the bus stop shown in the before-and-after images. Also nearby is a housing complex where many young families live. AARP grant funding helped clear weeds and trash from a bus stop with no seating and install a bench and landscaping. 

Port Orford, Oregon

A resident of Port Orford, Oregon, sits on a stone bench created with funding from the AARP Community Challenge

Photo from the Port Orford Street Revitalization Association (Grantee, 2017 AARP Community Challenge)

To encourage pedestrian traffic, the very small city (population 1,159, average age 56), installed seating with attached planters. A construction crew from a nearby correctional facility built four bench-planter combos. High school students made plaques to recognize the inmates for their work and AARP for helping to fund the building supplies.

San Diego, California

People enjoying the wooden tables, benches and colorful planters in a public plaza

Photos from the City Heights Community Development Corp. (Grantee, 2018 AARP Community Challenge)

The City Heights neighborhood is an enclave for refugees from Somalia and other East African countries. Local residents, particularly those 50 or older, gather in parking lots and on sidewalks at the busy area along University Avenue, which home to shops, markets and mosques. AARP funding enabled the installation of permanent seating in a popular plaza.

Kingston, New York

Four benches and two chess-checkers tables in Kingston, New York, created with funding from the AARP Community Challenge

Photo from the City of Kingston Live Well Commission (Grantee, 2019 AARP Community Challenge)

The Live Well Kingston Commission envisioned a “chess playground’ where people of all ages could come together to play chess (or checkers) in a public space. For the location, the city selected the waterfront TR Gallo Park along the Rondout Creek.

Monroe, Georgia

Three relaxing hammocks, acquired with funds from the AARP Community Challenge, was Monroe, Georgia

Photo from the City of Monroe (Grantee, 2020 AARP Community Challenge)

A bench is without a doubt a benefit for any pedestrian with aching feet, but being able to relax in a hammock is so much better. The city's visitor center and hammock park attract thousands of people a year, ranging from school groups to retirement home field trips. AARP funds helped spruce up the park with planters, outdoor games and — since hammocks aren't suitable for all users — benches. 

More About the AARP Community Challenge

Page published February 2022

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