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Excellence in Building Healthy Communities for Active Aging: City of Portland's Experience


Portland is quickly becoming a national leader in the creation of livable communities. Older adults in particular are active in Portland, due in large part to concerted efforts by the Portland Bureau of Transportation. This presentation outlines three key senior activity programs and their results: senior strolls, senior cycle, and safe routes to senior centers. Community planners and local leaders can use the presentation as a guide for establishing similar initiatives that can be implemented in their own communities to increase good health, activity, and infrastructure for older residents.

Key Points

The presentation provides general information about these three activity programs, criteria for implementing such programs and the noted results of the programs. Though specific to Portland, they can be broadly applied to other areas across the nation.

Other presentation highlights include:

  1. Senior Strolls: Senior Strolls is one component of Portland’s “Smart Trips” program. Participants take a walk together each week between May and October for between one to three miles. Routes are designed to be easy to walk with access to facilities and points of interest along the route. Welcome packets, raffles, and other items (maps, historical backgrounds, etc.) are also included. Results included “76% reported increase in stamina, 53% walk more since beginning the strolls”, decreased traffic, and greater familiarity with transit options (page 8).
  2. Senior Cycle: By providing “three-wheel recumbent bikes and helmets” (page 12), training, and support, nearly 250 seniors enthusiastically supported the Senior Cycle program. In fact, there was more demand than availability.
  3. Safe Routes to Senior Centers: Goals for this initiative were to increase walking access to the centers for seniors, make the streets around them safer, and encourage seniors to walk more (page 15). To do so, the department spent $39,500 in engineering improvements, hosted a senior walking challenge, created walking mile and ½ mile “loops” and offered a variety of senior center activities. One result from the walking challenge was that over two years participating older adults walked over 10,000 miles.

How to Use

Fostering physical activity among older adults equates to lower health costs and stronger community engagement for seniors. This presentation provides three practical programs with proven results to get started. Planners, local officials, and community leaders can use this presentation as a guide for establishing physical activity programs that support improved community walkability and mobility among older residents.

View the full report: Excellence in Building Healthy Communities for Active Aging – City of Portland's Experience (PDF – 5.5 MB)

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