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Building a 'Community for a Lifetime'

A community center becomes the hub of a city's age-friendly makeover

Auburn Hills Community Center, Auburn Hills, Michigan, United States

Auburn Hills has been working hard to become an ideal place for people of any age or ability to live, work and play. In 2013 the city was designated by the Michigan Aging & Adult Services Agency as a "Community for a Lifetime." That same year Auburn Hills became the first municipality in Michigan to join the AARP Network of Age-Friendly Communities.

The Details

At the heart of the city’s initiative "to transition into a city where all generations are welcome" is the Auburn Hills Community Center. Opened in 2007, the center  offers a variety of services, activities and programs to keep older residents healthy, socially-engaged and informed. For example:

  • The center is home to the city's Meals on Wheels program, in which volunteers deliver daily meals to people ages 60 and over who are unable to adequately prepare meals at home. The center also offers an onsite meal program where older people can come for lunch three times a week.

  • There's a robust health and fitness program that includes volleyball, golf, tai chi, balance, yoga, walking activities, a diabetes-management program, a gym and a game room with a billiard table.

  • Educational and social opportunities include professional storytelling, guest lectures, parties, arts and crafts classes, brain aerobics, language lessons, photography and computer training.

  • Volunteers provide free estate planning and legal advice and can help older residents prepare their income tax returns.

Community center participants don't even have to leave home for some services, including lawn mowing, yard maintenance and snow plowing. There's even a home-repair program. The center also offers transportation for dialysis, chemotherapy, shopping and other business or medical appointments. In addition, the center has a travel program that arranges trips to theaters, museums and casinos, as well as to such faraway places as Panama and China.

The Cost

Residents of Auburn Hills pay for the community center through their local taxes. Most of its health programs and other services are free to residents. Yard maintenance, day trips and fitness classes charge a fee to cover the costs of instructors, equipment or gas.

The Results

The Auburn Hills Community Center reports that about 14,000 people age 50 and older participate in its programs each year. More than 400 people volunteer at the center on a regular basis. Half of those volunteers are older residents, while many of the remaining helpers are high school and college students.

"Participants encourage other older people, especially those with visual or physical disabilities, to participate," says Karen Adcock, the city's senior services director. "The community center has become the go-to place for older people."

The center is also a model of collaboration, involving key city departments, the state of Michigan, local businesses, schools and various health, aging and mobility agencies and organizations.

Published August 2015

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