Age-Friendly Miami-Dade, Florida, and Equity
A look at how the city and county is working to ensure fair access and opportunities for its older adults
Miami-Dade County is home to more than 2.7 million residents. More than a half-million of those residents are age 60-plus, which makes Miami-Dade home to the largest number of older adult residents in Florida. The county’s population is 69 percent Latino, approximately 18 percent black and 13 percent white/non-Hispanic. Miami-Dade joined the AARP Network of Age-Friendly States and Communities in 2016 and finalized its age-friendly action plan in 2019. The work is managed by the Miami-Dade Age-Friendly Initiative.
- Susan Holtzman, Older Adult and Special Needs Advocate, Office of the Mayor, Miami-Dade County
- Andrea Iglesias, CEO/Executive Director, Urban Health Partnerships
- Isabel Rovira, COO and Director of Miami-Dade Age-Friendly Initiative, Urban Health Partnerships
- Multicultural programs for older adults
- Prioritized engagement in diverse and historically disadvantaged neighborhood
- Education and capacity building
- Hiring of community liaisons
Andrea Iglesias, Isabel Rovira and Susan Holtzman describe how equity is part of the bedrock of their work.
Leading with Equity
The Miami-Dade Age-Friendly Initiative is a collaborative effort focused on sustainable changes and efforts in order to create a community where older adults can stay active, engaged and healthy with dignity and enjoyment.
The work is led by eight organizations (see the Partner Organizations box). Urban Health Partnerships serves as the coordinating backbone agency supporting the work of Age-Friendly Miami-Dade, which brings together 60 different stakeholders. The nonprofit helps to provide resources, capacity building and connections to the initiative.
"Our vision is ‘To build equitable communities where everyone can lead healthier and happier lives through physical, social and emotional well-being,'" says Iglesias. This aligns with the goal for the Miami-Dade Age-Friendly Initiative. "We look at the social determinants of health and how the built environment — transportation options, outdoor spaces, and street and sidewalk design — impacts the ability of residents to live healthy lives as they age. Our role is to bring an age-friendly lens to efforts and help to activate connections between partners and specific communities."
The Miami-Dade Age-Friendly Initiative "works at the neighborhood, city and county level," she adds, "so even though the initiative is a county-wide program, it's informed by community-scale ideas and needs. If you stay only at the county level you will miss a lot of important information.”
“Because our lead agencies have relationships in diverse communities, it’s easier for us to bring in age-friendly work," says Holtzman. "For example, UHP has done a lot of work in Miami Gardens, a predominantly African American neighborhood. We now have an opportunity to expand our work in this community to address health for older adults there. Because of our relationships we know the Age-Friendly Miami-Dade work will have a real possibility for implementation.”
Addressing All of the ‘isms and Engaging All Voices
"We are building the case for creating age-friendly communities. We find that aging — compounded with other ‘isms in our community — affects the quality of life of older adults and their ability to age in place."
— Isabel Rovira, Miami-Dade Age-Friendly Initiative, Urban Health Partnerships
“A lot of our work at the county level is coordination and capacity building," explains Rovira. "We are building the case for creating age-friendly communities. We find that aging — compounded with other ‘isms in our community — affects the quality of life of older adults and their ability to age in place. Many neighborhoods in Miami-Dade are home to older people with limited English proficiency. Those same neighborhoods are lacking in walkability, adequate and affordable transportation options, and quality affordable and accessible housing."
When the initiative began, it did additional on-the ground surveys as part of creating the action plan. "We hired older adult community liaisons who spoke Spanish, Haitian Creole and English to conduct the surveys in their communities," says Rovira. "As a result, we heard from an additional 1,100 people."
Age-Friendly Streets and Destinations
As part of the commitment to age-friendly design, the Miami-Dade Transportation Planning Organization, another lead agency, adopted the Miami-Dade Aging Road User Strategic Safety Plan. An analysis of Miami neighborhoods where crashes are prevalent found that several are lower-income, Hispanic communities with a lot of older adults, many of whom don’t own vehicles. This has led to road safety audits in these areas.
Safe streets have been a priority since the initiative began eight years ago. "We piloted Safe Routes to Age in Place in Little Havana," says Rovira. "We did walking audits with older adults and transportation professionals so people could have a shared experience about areas of concern and what changes would encourage people to walk more. By working with key partners, some immediate improvements were made, such as removing tripping hazards, while others are longer-term but are being addressed."
The Miami-Dade Age-Friendly Initiative worked with businesses in a walkable, half-mile radius area surrounding the Vista Alegre apartments and condominiums in Little Havana to create an Age-Friendly Business District. By providing residents with discounts when they walked to shop on a certain day of the week, the district encourages older adults to walk where they need or want to go."
Building Partnerships to Engage Disconnected Seniors
With resources from Aetna, the Partnerships for Healthy Aging in Place pilot program engaged older adult residents from the Village of Allapattah, one of Miami’s oldest and most culturally diverse neighborhoods.
Working with partners, lead agency UHP and the Allapattah YMCA conducted 29 events that included walking audits, a review of identified concerns, presentations about local resources, social engagement opportunities and capacity building based on community needs. When the pandemic arose, outreach shifted to virtual engagements.
"We were able to partner closely with the YMCA that's located at the base of a large, affordable, senior apartment building in the heart of the neighborhood," Rovira says. "As a result, our follow-up research reflected an increase in confidence that older residents could find help and support and be able to stay in their community as they age. We also saw an increase in feelings of positivity or optimism about the future, an increase in feeling connected to neighbors and an increase in confidence around advocating for age-friendly changes in their community.”
"These are just some examples of how the Miami-Dade Age-Friendly Initiative and its lead agencies are working together to incorporate equity into their work," says Rovira. "This is a continued priority for the initiative and for its lead agencies toward creating a more equitable and livable community for all ages."
- Action Plan for an Age-Friendly Miami-Dade
- Age-Friendly Business District Toolkit
- Age-Friendly Housing Policy Scan
- Age-Friendly Miami-Dade County
- Age-Friendly Mini-Grants
- Age-Friendly Parks Tool Kit
- Miami-Dade Aging Road User Strategic Safety Plan
- Safe Routes to Age in Place
- Learn about the AARP Network of Age-Friendly States and Communities
- Check out the network's Member List
- Connect with AARP Florida
- Read Age-Friendly Responses to COVID-19
Visit "Age-Friendly Network Communities and Equity" to read about another community. »
Reported by Mary Kay Bailey | Fall 2020 | Population data from the U.S. Census
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