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AARP Wants to Help Your Community

Grants and fitness parks are improving life across America


spinner image People use exercise equipment at some of the 53 fitness parks sponsored by AARP.
People use exercise equipment at some of the 53 fitness parks sponsored by AARP.
HILMY LLC (ALEXANDER HILMY); JEFF TESNEY

Like most Americans, I am looking forward to the summer and the opportunity to get out of the house and enjoy the outdoors. As we approach our first summer since the end of the COVID-19 public health emergency, towns and cities across the nation are also bouncing back, focusing even more on the well-being of their people. With AARP’s long-standing support for livable communities, we have created several exciting ways to help.

spinner image AARP CEO JoAnn Jenkins, illustration
Illustration by Michael Hoeweler

First, this month, AARP’s state offices will announce the recipients of the 2023 AARP Community Challenge grants. These grants provide funding for quick-action projects that can help communities become more livable for people of all ages. We are providing money for efforts to improve public spaces, transportation, housing, civic engagement, diversity and inclusion, and more. In its seventh year, the program is part of AARP’s nationwide Livable Communities initiative, which supports the efforts of cities, towns, neighborhoods and rural areas to become great places for all residents, especially those age 50 and older.

Since 2017, AARP has awarded more than $12.7 million to over 1,060 projects through the Community Challenge to nonprofit organizations and government entities across all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. These initiatives range from the creation of a unique outdoor music park in Avoca, Iowa, to the provision of Wi-Fi-enabled tablets and digital literacy training to older public housing residents in Jersey City, New Jersey. This program has demonstrated that by supporting local leaders and organizations as they work to strengthen their communities, we can improve the quality of life for the very young, the very old and every­one in between.

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A second exciting way AARP is helping communities enhance the health and well-being of their residents is through our community fitness initiative.

In 2019, as part of AARP’s 60th anniversary celebration, we partnered with the nonprofit FitLot and committed to building AARP-sponsored outdoor fitness parks in every state. Each park is equipped with easy-to-use machines and stations built for people across the fitness and mobility spectrum. The parks are free and open to the public, and locals can sign up for guided classes to make full use of the equipment.

These fitness parks are a tangible example of AARP’s commitment to local communities and healthy aging. The outdoor exercise equipment encourages people of all ages to get out of the house, meet others and stay fit.

At the grand opening of our latest fitness park last November in the U.S. Virgin ­Islands, Calvert White, commissioner of the VI Department of Sports, Parks and Recreation, said, “With the opening of the AARP-sponsored outdoor fitness park, we now have another avenue that can cater to our ­senior population. We look forward to producing programs at the park that will enhance the entire community’s physical ability and quality of life.”

We opened the first outdoor fitness park in St. Petersburg, Florida, in April 2019 and have now opened 53 parks, one in every state. To find a fitness park near you, go to fitlot.org/aarp.

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And to learn more about AARP’s programs, events and advocacy work in your state or territory, go to states.aarp.org and find what is happening near you.

Since our founding 65 years ago, AARP has become a vital resource in communities across America. As our founder, Dr. Ethel Percy Andrus, observed, “Our community is the place where we as older individuals can be most effective. In no other place can we gain so much cooperation and win so many champions and supporters.” As the nation continues to rebound from the pandemic, we are redoubling our efforts to be a nation­wide, as well as a national, organization, working with communities to create local experiences that serve all ages and last for years to come.

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