Age-Friendly Louisville, Kentucky
What's been achieved since joining the AARP Network of Age-Friendly States and Communities
ACTIVITIES AS OF MARCH 2022
Named “America’s Aging Care Capital” by Forbes magazine, Louisville, Kentucky, is a hub for professionals working in healthcare and aging care. As the state’s largest city, Louisville is home to some 615,000 residents, 15 percent of whom are over age 60. The area’s older population is expected to increase by as much as 40 percent by 2050.
Initiative Name: Age-Friendly Louisville
Network Member Since: 2016
Government Type: Louisville has an elected mayor and an elected 26-member metro council.
Local Age-Friendly Leadership: Age-Friendly Louisville is led in collaboration with the Louisville Metro Government, its Office for Aging & Disabled Citizens, AARP Kentucky, KIPDA Aging and Disability Resource Center and the University of Louisville's Trager Institute (formerly the Institute for Sustainable Health & Optimal Aging).
Reason(s) for Joining: “The University of Louisville had just created an office of aging, and was looking for projects,” explains Tihisha Rawlins, associate state director of AARP Kentucky. “The stars aligned."
The Financials: The organizations listed under Local Age-Friendly Leadership (above) provide funding and other forms of support to Age-Friendly Louisville.
Age-Friendly Louisville published its five-year strategic plan report in September 2021. Following are some of the initiative’s achievements:
Bringing Parades to the People
Age-Friendly Louisville organizes its work based on the 8 Domains of Livability framework created by the World Health Organization Global Network for Age-friendly Cities and Communities program. In what became the most crowd-pleasing initiative during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Social Participation, Respect and Inclusion Workgroup held “drive-by” holiday parades.
“Nowhere in our strategic plans did we list hosting a bunch of drive-by parades for long-term care communities,” says Sarah Teeters, who serves on the Age-Friendly Louisville leadership team. “Normally, when we plan for a parade, we put people on a bus and drive to the parade. The Social Participation group had to pivot and do the parade days in reverse by bringing the parades to the people.”
Parade drivers and passengers decorated cars, dressed in crazy costumes and broadcast music through megaphones. The planners let the nursing homes know the routes and timing so the staff could bring residents out to sit six feet apart for watching the parade pass by.
“The staff would tell us, ‘We love it when you come. It lightens the day, which has become so heavy due to being short-staffed, gowned up all the time and everyone having to isolate,'" says Teeters. "It got to the point that local organizers were finding any excuse to put on a parade.”
The parades, she adds, were something positive that came out of a time nobody was prepared for.
All-in-One Resource Guide
The Community Supports and Health Services Workgroup is led by Teeters and Pam Yankeelov, Ph.D., the Director of Research at the University of Louisville Trager Institute. Both participated in the age-friendly program’s two-year assessment phase.
“We did listening sessions in a variety of public spaces — such as libraries, community centers and senior centers — to get a sense of what people felt was important,” says Yankeelov.
The team learned that older adults wanted easier access to existing health and support resources. “While there are a number of community resources, there's a lot of confusion about where to find these resources,” Yankeelov adds.
Based on that feedback, the workgroup created a two-page brochure — called How Do I Find: Community Support & Health Services — identifying five healthcare clearinghouse agencies through which all other resources could be contacted. The brochure includes a short description of each agency, its phone number, email address and website URL.
Facts for First Responders
Age-Friendly Louisville created fact sheets for first responders about serving older adults. The topics include dementia and mental health issues as well as tips for self-care and stress management. (The fact sheets are available for download at AgeFriendlyLouisville.org.)
“Instead of a listing of a billion different things, it gives some structure to the overwhelmed feelings that arise when needing a resource,” says Yankeelov. “You can refer people all day long, but some places are only open for certain hours or days,” adds Teeters.
“We sent this brochure everywhere,” Yankeelov explains. “We took it to booths at health fairs, included it in events for veterans, brought it to older adult and caregiver conferences, and we distributed it to the 1,200 individuals who, at some point, signed up for Age-Friendly Louisville.”
Moving Knowledge, Not Patients
Project ECHO (short for Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes) is a "tele-mentoring" program that uses Zoom to share knowledge among healthcare professionals worldwide in order to create “communities of learning.” Project ECHO’s stated goal is to improve treatment by "moving information instead of people."
“We held four sessions on opioid risk management and four sessions on alternate pain management, including acupuncture, diet, massage and mindfulness,” says Yankeelov.
Each session included a didactic, a case presentation and a recommendation section. Participants praised the value of learning about the risks of prescribing opioids to older patients and how different evidence-based pain management interventions can be used instead.
Help With Aging Homes
A goal of the initiative’s Housing Workgroup, as outlined in the strategic plan, is to increase the number of home builders in Louisville who have earned the Certified Aging in Place Specialist (CAPS) certification from the National Association of Home Builders.
“A survey done by the Housing team found that a lot of older homeowners are having trouble keeping their homes maintained. As things break down, they can't afford the repairs. In other cases, people want to age in place but their home isn’t suitable for doing so,” AARP's Rawlins explains.
After reaching out to local builders and real estate professionals, Age-Friendly Louisville’s Housing Workgroup created a resource guide listing the local providers who were either CAPS certified or working toward the certification.
“In 2020, we really wanted to focus on the intergenerational part of being age-friendly,” says Rawlins. “For the things we wanted to do in person, we found ways to do them virtually.”
The plan for partnering older adults with school-aged children to plant a garden was turned into a pen pal exchange between older adults living in facilities and several local elementary schools.
“We worked with elementary schools because that's when children are learning how to write a letter,” explains Rawlins. “Teachers really bought into it because the activity fit within their curriculum. The older adults really loved it because they received a handwritten note they could respond to.” The students also made Thanksgiving cards (pictured) for residents of an assisted living facility.
An event with the local Boys & Girls Club became a Zoom call with older adults who shared their personal stories during Black History Month. In another virtual session, older veterans and an ROTC group spoke with students about their experiences.
Getting approval for accessory dwelling units (or ADUs) was not part of Age-Friendly Louisville's strategic plan, but when an unexpected opportunity appeared, the leadership team jumped on it.
“We worked with Metro Housing Coalition and the city's Office of Planning and Design on affordable housing issues,” explains Rawlins. “One of the things that Metro wanted us to help with was getting buy-in and support for ADUs. We knew it was going to be a challenge.”
In 2021 — thanks in part to education and advocacy by groups including Age-Friendly Louisville, AARP Kentucky, the Metro Housing Coalition and the Louisville Affordable Housing Trust Fund — the Louisville Metro Council voted 23 to 3 to allow the creation of ADUs.
Lessons Learned (and Advice for Others)
“If you see things in your city that you know could be improved, or if you have ideas on how to make your city better, it's definitely worth the work of getting involved,” says Tihisha Rawlins of AARP Kentucky. “I see age-friendly as an opportunity to get like-minded people together to work on common goals.”
Have a Place at Every Table
“We think of everything as an opportunity. And because we had so many people at the table, the brainstorming was incredible,” recalls Rawlins. “At the time, Louisville was just getting ready to start work on its 2040 strategic plan. We made sure that age-friendly team members attended a meeting — and when something was discussed in the meeting, we made sure the speaker remembered to put the ‘aging lens’ on.”
Take the Time
“We didn't rush the process. When we did our focus group, we had two in every part of the community,” says Rawlins. “And then we said, ‘This isn’t enough. We need more. Let's go to where different groups are meeting.’ It took time to say, ‘Hey we're here, what do you all think about this?’ After two years of research we took another year to come up with a strategy.”
Break Down (or Don’t Ever Build) Walls
Pam Yankeelov of Age-Friendly Louisville describes the many meetings she attended during the COVID-19 pandemic as “a lot less territorial. It was more, ‘We're here together. Let's see if we can do more of this, more sharing, more support, more promoting one another.”
Her colleague Sarah Teeters agrees: “I think the silos were broken down a little bit. It wasn't business is business. Prior to COVID-19, it was more about, ‘I've got the biggest marketing numbers and we've got the most donations.’ It was more of a numbers game. COVID humbled not just people but businesses and organizations. We all wanted to see places thrive and be successful, and I think that opened doors for communication where people didn't have walls up. Everyone had a shared trauma.”
“Age-friendly work gives you deeper understanding, greater awareness of the various organizations and their missions and how those missions overlap with each other,” Yankeelov adds. “When you get to know people on a personal level, your lives become intertwined. Your professional and your friendship networks grow. Passion builds on passion, so the energy you bring to the table is multiplied because those around you have the same degree and depth of passion.”
- Visit AARP Kentucky
- Learn about the AARP Network of Age-Friendly States and Communities
- Check out the network's Member List
- Find more Age-Friendly Member Impact and Achievement Profiles
- Go to the Age-Friendly Articles Archive (and select the Kentucky folder) to learn more about age-friendly efforts in Louisville
Reporting by Amy Lennard Goehner
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