ACTIVITIES AS OF JULY 2021
Incorporated as a town in 2005, Cutler Bay, Florida, is the “youngest” of the 34 municipalities in Miami-Dade County. The growth rate among the older adults in Cutler Bay is higher than the growth in the overall population. The community is home to eight senior living facilities and many of the town’s neighborhoods have become NORCs (or naturally occurring retirement communities) due to the quantity of older residents who are living independently in their long-time homes.
Initiative Name: Age-Friendly Cutler Bay
Network Member Since: 2016, when it became the first municipality in South Florida to join
Government Type: Cutler Bay operates under a council-manager form of government with five elected council members, one of whom serves as mayor.
Reason(s) for Joining: Cutler Bay’s journey to becoming an age-friendly community began in 2010, when the town joined the Florida Department of Elder Affairs’ Communities for a Lifetime initiative (CFAL). The CFAL Committee worked with town staff to organize events for older adults. “We were always in contact with other agencies, seeing how we could better our town,” recalls Marilyn Rams, the committee's vice chair and one of its original members. “We learned about the AARP Network of Age-Friendly States and Communities and decided we needed to grow.”
Local Leadership: Cutler Bay's Age-Friendly Community Committee is made up of five town residents appointed by the Town Council.
The Financials: “We partner with different organizations for the more than 30 events we do each year,” explains Ralph Casals, Cutler Bay’s town manager. “We apply for grants, we pursue a variety of means for funding.”
Actions and Achievements
See Cutler Bay's combination action plan and progress report document at the end of this page. Some of the town's age-friendly activities are noted below.
The Senior Games
Cutler Bay is among the few locations that serve as qualifiers for the Florida Senior Games and the only one in Miami-Dade County. Competitors in the annual Cutler Bay Senior Games must be age 50 or over. Residency in the town is not a requirement and participation is free.
Very Active Adults
"Cutler Bay is no longer an 'I want to play Bingo’ crowd,” says Sue Ellen Loyzelle, Cutler Bay’s former vice mayor. “The seniors here want to do more. They want trips, adventure walks, active and engaging activities, and the best way to plan those outings is by empowering residents to be part of the planning. Doing so helps guarantee exciting activities and great attendance.”
Resident JoAnne Linardi adds: “I'm 68, and have participated in many of the active adults events along with my mom who is 90, and my sister who is 65. One of our faves are the Miami Marlins baseball games. The bus ride is interesting for anyone who doesn't get out of the neighborhood often. Due to our ages, we get special-access entrance. (Yay!) My sister and I wander around enjoying views and beers.”
“Because our games are sanctioned, we’ve actually had people flying in from Texas, just to compete in pickleball,” says Kimberly Thomas, Cutler Bay’s events and programs coordinator. The competition’s other sports include tennis, basketball, billiards, table tennis, horseshoes and swimming.
Town resident and age-friendly committee chair José Rodriguez first competed in the games because he was invited to do so by a participant needing a shuffleboard partner.
“At first I thought, ‘shuffleboard? I’m not that old!’ But I’ve gained a greater appreciation for the game,” says Rodriguez. “For three years now we’ve won gold and none have been easy wins.”
The games benefit Cutler Bay, he adds, because they allow the town to promote its age-friendly initiative and give residents a sense of community. “As we age, there are fewer opportunities to engage socially with others,” he says. “The games provide that.”
Cutler Bay CarFit
“CarFit is specifically geared for older adults to ensure they ‘fit’ their vehicle and have all the resources available to enhance their safety,” says Desiree Ducasa, a town employee.
During Cutler Bay’s annual CarFit event, staff from the Florida Department of Transportation lead older drivers through a 12-point checklist on their vehicles. Among the items on the list: adjusting mirrors to minimize blind spots; ensuring a good foot position on the gas and brake pedals; sitting within 10 inches of the steering wheel.
Golf Carts Take to the Road
In 2010, Cutler Bay adopted an ordinance allowing golf carts on the town’s streets. Five years later, officials extended the use of carts to the town’s two-lane roads. Golf cart drivers must obey the same traffic laws as drivers of any other motor vehicle.
Cutler Bay residents can anonymously report a traffic concern in their neighborhood by completing an online Traffic Watch form.
Submitters are asked to note the location and time of the incident and the type of traffic issue being reported: speeding, running a stop sign or red light, illegal parking and “Operating Unsafe Golf Cart” are among the choices.
In addition to allowing golf carts on the town's roadways, Cutler Bay has been innovative about its residential parking requirements for senior citizen housing. Learn more by reading "Prioritizing Housing Over Parking."
To get the word out about the expanded permissions and its accompanying rules, the town hosted a golf cart rodeo at Cutler Bay’s annual chili cook off. “We gave people a written exam about the rules of the road and conducted a pre-trip cart inspection,” former mayor Sue Ellen Loyzelle explains. “It was a fun educational experience.”
Three annual golf cart parades are among the town’s most widely-attended celebrations. In 2021, the Fourth of July parade attracted 400 golf carts, hosted more than 2,000 attendees and raised money for the nearby Surfside community, the site of a condominium building collapse in which nearly 100 residents died.
Park Fitness Circuit
In 2017, Cutler Bay received an AARP Community Challenge grant to purchase four pieces of fitness equipment and installed them under a sun and rain proof canopy in Cutler Ridge Park. “It seems simple, but there was a lot of thought that went into the types of equipment installed,” says Casals. “The pieces are accessible to folks with disabilities and they’re located next to the community pool where senior swimming classes and senior fitness classes are held.”
When the route for Cutler Bay’s Circulator Bus was laid out in 2012, it was intentionally designed to transport the town’s older residents. “We made sure to hit all the senior complexes,” says Casals. “We started off the service three days a week, and then six days a week and then we negotiated with the county to kick in the extra day.” In 2020, the town launched GO Connect, a free, on-demand car service that takes residents to and from any place within town. Passengers use a mobile app to book trips, similar to the way Uber and Lyft operate. Pickup and drop off points are at a location near the rider’s home. Wheelchair-accessible vehicles and door-to-door service is available to individuals with limited mobility.
Lessons Learned (and Advice for Others)
Ralph Casals, town manager, offers up the following recommendations:
Designing for older adults serves everyone
“I treat every senior resident like they were my grandma. Design a roadway project to make sure she can cross the street safely. Design that bus shelter so she doesn’t get wet in the middle of a thunderstorm. Design a bus route so she doesn’t have to walk far to her complex. All of those things — bus shelters, slowing traffic speeds in pedestrian areas, adding benches along sidewalks — are good for everyone in the community. When a resident says something fresh like, ‘What fool put a bench on the middle of the block?’ I can say to them, ‘I put the bench there — and you might be one of the people sitting on that bench in 10 years.’”
“We're entering the journey of designing a new municipal complex in the heart of town. We’re hosting visiting workshops at different town events, but we also go to the senior centers and get their input. I'm not going to hear at a senior center that they want a skatepark, but I will hear about something else they do want or need.”
Making a Plan, Taking Action
“An age-friendly action plan is a working document," says Sue Ellen Loyzelle, Cutler Bay's former vice mayor. "It doesn't sit on the shelf. It's at the staff meetings. Our town manager will say to each department head, 'What did you do relating to the Age Friendly action plan?'”
See Cutler Bay's combination action plan and progress report below:
Find more age-friendly network Member Profiles
Reporting by Amy Lennard Goehner
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