The deadline is June 30, 2017!
Watch the video below and then visit AARP.org/CommunityChallenge to learn more.
The deadline is June 30, 2017!
Watch the video below and then visit AARP.org/CommunityChallenge to learn more.
By Rodney Harrell and Stephanie K. Firestone
The thousands of community planners who will come together this May at the American Planning Association’s (APA) National Planning Conference are increasingly aware of a demographic trend: nearly 20 percent of the US population will be over age 65 by 2030.
Translation: Planners need to get together with aging network professionals and talk!
Why? While many aging network professionals are in the business of designing plans with individuals to help them to thrive in their homes and communities for as long as possible; planners, meanwhile, envision and bring form to livable communities.
The conversation, in fact, has already begun. An in-depth discussion of this kind took place in March through a half-day Livable Communities Summit at the American Society on Aging’s (ASA) annual conference in Chicago. AARP sponsored this first-ever joint event between the ASA and the APA, where over 250 professionals from both sectors explored areas of overlap and discussed how to collaborate better moving forward.
Participants discussed a number of tools, including:
The summit also engaged participants in a survey on these emerging cross-sector relationships (a follow-up survey and results will be publicly shared at a later date) and presented case studies from a variety of community types across the country where planning and aging practitioners are increasingly intertwining disciplines. Summit organizers were even intentional regarding seating arrangements, mixing planners and aging professionals together to ensure dynamic exchange between those with diverse perspectives.
Participants discussed issues and opportunities that impact many communities:
One participant at the Summit articulated that policy changes must “pay attention to the needs and wants of older adults, not what we think is best.” To be sure, these are conversations that should be happening in every community.
Planners everywhere are confronting the challenges posed by aging communities. At the event planners were able to find value in the realization that there are “other planners like me involved in this…there are many people keenly interested in this mission that I can join forces with.” Moreover, using national resources and working with local aging network professionals enhances planners’ ability to address challenges and maximize the benefits of the asset that older adults in the community represent.
The Summit dialogue should mark the beginning of a strengthening collaboration. We at the AARP Public Policy Institute welcome the ideas of planners and aging network professionals alike on how to continue these cross-sector discussions at the local, regional, and national levels. We also would love to hear from all sectors about your own experiences engaging in these conversations.
Rodney Harrell, PhD is the director of livability thought leadership for AARP. He discusses livable community issues @DrUrbanPolicy.
Stephanie K. Firestone is a senior strategic policy advisor covering the areas of health and age-friendly communities for AARP International.
The AARP Public Policy Institute is the home of the Livability Index and many other resources. Visit www.aarp.org/livable for information on making communities more livable.
Follow Dr. Harrell on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn and Google+.
This post originally appeared in the IAGG 2017 Bridge blog.
Across the globe populations are aging, and this far-reaching change is happening much faster than most people realize. In just five years, the number of older persons will surpass one billion; they are already a fast-growing presence in cities and towns of all sizes, every region and all segments of society.
Photo courtesy of Dan Burden
This change provides countries across the globe with a great opportunity, because older individuals have so much to offer the communities where they live. But making the most of it will require vision and innovative thinking.
Fortunately, we have a growing body of knowledge about what it takes to make a community more “age friendly.” And it is becoming clearer all the time that cities and towns that embrace this priority are rewarded with a better quality of life for all their residents. There really is no alternative, because demographic trends are transforming societies around the world whether they are prepared or not.
Consider these numbers:
Nations and local communities that take steps to become more livable for all will have the advantage over those that do not. The good news is that practical models on improving communities to be age friendly are available. Pioneering work by the World Health Organization (WHO) provides many insights into how communities can promote healthy, active aging and support inclusion and engagement that benefits all their residents.
The WHO also sponsors a Global Network for Age-Friendly Cities and Communities that share insights on best practices and lessons learned. AARP is committed to making this information more available, and in 2012 we created the AARP Network of Age-Friendly Communities to further that goal, in affiliation with the WHO.
These age-friendly networks highlight eight domains of livability that help shape quality of life for people of all ages: Outdoor spaces and buildings; transportation; housing; social participation; respect and inclusion; civic participation and employment; communication and information; community and health services.
Importantly, Alexandre Kalache, who helped create the WHO network, points out that age-friendly features do far more than just help seniors, they help everyone. Take the example of a bus that is designed for easy access. “If it is easy for an older person to get in and out of this bus, it is going to be more (accessible) to a child or a teenager, to a pregnant woman or to someone carrying her luggage.”
Design, land use and infrastructure all help pave the way for people to stay engaged in the world around them. But Kalache notes that for a place to be truly age friendly, inclusiveness must become a broadly shared cultural value. As he puts it, such a community is a place “where the attitude is right – from the policymakers to the service providers to the population as a whole…”
Promoting the value of inclusion requires a multi-faceted effort. Age-friendly communities should have physical infrastructures and offer services that help residents of all ages live active, engaged and secure lives. They should enact policies and rules (e.g., zoning and land use regulations) that create an accessible built environment and ensure affordable and convenient housing alternatives.
Age-friendly communities should provide transportation options that meet the varied needs of residents, including easy access to health care and retail shopping for basic necessities. They should keep the environment clean and public spaces safe and free of crime.
Age-friendly communities should give residents access to housing that is located near crucial services, such as transportation, health care, retail and recreation. Available housing should include choices that meet the needs of residents of all ages, including families with kids and those with grandparents.
All of these things make it easier for people to live the way they want to. And the fact is that most of us want the chance to age in our homes and communities for as long as possible. AARP surveys consistently show that older people desperately want to hold on to their independence and avoid moving into nursing institutions.
Yet obstacles often stand in the way of living independently and securely, particularly as we get older. Take the basic example of walking safely to the store or strolling around the block. In the United States, adults 65 and older make up 13 percent of the population, yet they suffer nearly 20 percent of pedestrian fatalities. Communities can do better. As a start, they should make changes to street, crosswalk and sidewalk design, maintenance, and signage. Poor infrastructure is also often the cause of older adult falls and falls are the cause of 68 percent of older adults’ hospitalizations.
Engagement, Foresight and Inclusiveness
Importantly, age-friendly places recognize older adults as the community assets that they are. They know that older residents offer experience and perspective that should be taken advantage of when it comes to planning, implementation and evaluation of programs and policies. They understand that in the process, the benefit flows in both directions: Older adults who get involved benefit personally from a sense of purpose and engagement, while the community gets the value of their experience. Inclusion leads to better decisions that help everyone.
An inclusive approach to age-friendly planning also raises awareness of changes affecting communities and the needs of residents. Noteworthy changes include the growing role of grandparents in raising grandchildren, the increase in multigenerational families, and growing ethnic and racial diversity in older age groups. An inclusive approach also seeks out input from a diverse set of older residents who may offer insights and solutions that would otherwise be overlooked. Further, age-friendly planning recognizes that as the population ages, there will be an increasing number of individuals with disabilities who rely on local services to stay independent.
Commitment and On-the-Ground Action
AARP’s goal is to help people live more easily and comfortably as they age and it has been gratifying to see that this goal is widely shared. Since its start in 2012, the AARP Network of Age-Friendly Communities has boomed, with a membership that has now reached 163 localities that are home to more than 64 million people living all over the United States. These are communities of all shapes and sizes – from small towns and rural counties to cities as large as Atlanta, Boston and Dallas.
AARP state offices work with local officials and activists across the network to promote age friendliness, and our communities have shown real leadership to prepare for demographic change rather than passively wait for it.
Within the network, we’ve seen a wide range of programs and successes.
Given the breadth of issues that age-friendliness must address, this work requires a local government commitment from the very top – one that filters down through every department to frontline workers. Age friendliness has to work for everyone, so it is vital that local officials and planners work across silos and reach into other disciplines to find holistic solutions. I am heartened by the extent to which age-friendly awareness is increasingly embraced by disciplines as varied as planning, architecture, real estate development and zoning, as well as increasing examples of cross-sector collaboration.
To support this multi-discipline approach, in March AARP sponsored a Summit on Livable Communities, which brought together two key organizations representing different disciplines – the American Society on Aging and the American Planning Association. The summit included 250 aging network professionals and local/regional planners, who talked about ways to work across professional silos to advance livable communities for all people, regardless of their age or ability. I believe some great partnerships were formed during the event, and look forward to hearing about future accomplishments.
We now know that people of all ages want their communities to be age friendly, whether they live in small villages, big cities or suburbs. The need is growing and not just in the developed world. By mid-century, one in five people in developing countries will be over 60. Communities of all sizes, all stages of development and in all regions of the world will benefit by making age friendliness a priority.
Building on our existing knowledge about age friendliness to find new and more effective approaches should be a priority in communities all over, and AARP is committed to helping.
Across the globe, community leaders cannot afford to ignore their aging populations. Everyone will benefit when we embrace this change and work together to prepare for the future.
Debra Whitman is AARP’s chief public policy officer and leads policy development, analysis and research, as well as global thought leadership that supports and advances the interests of older people and their families. Follow Deb on Twitter: @policydeb
In 2016, an estimated 5.4 million Americans had Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia. And while people of all ages can have dementia, 8.8 percent of adults age 65 and over have the disease.
With greater longevity and rapidly increasing numbers of individuals with dementia, we are all likely to encounter a person living with dementia as we go about our lives. We may witness a person living with the disease facing any number of challenges in navigating the community. Given the stigma around dementia in our society, people with the disease may be uncomfortable asking for help, or they may avoid venturing out in public at all — resulting in their suffering still further, from isolation.
To address these challenges, Dementia Friendly America (DFA) has launched a new tool that we can use to educate ourselves about how each of us as individuals can best interact with and support people living with dementia. We can take a few very simple and quick steps to become Dementia Friends. According to Ron Grant, who lives with dementia and is cochair of DFA, “Since there is no cure for dementia diseases and disorders, being a Dementia Friend will help those of us living with dementia to continue to live well in community.”
Dementia Friendly America, a multisector collaborative that includes AARP and a number of other leading national organizations and funding partners, is catalyzing a movement to more effectively support and serve those across America who are living with dementia and their family and friend care partners. While DFA catalyzes community-wide efforts, the Dementia Friends initiative enables each of us as individuals to play our part.
Dementia Friends U.S. is modeled after an effort that began in the United Kingdom as a way to help people learn more about what it is like to live with dementia and turn that understanding into action. DFA is the Dementia Friends U.S. licensee and has collaborated closely with the U.K. to bring the best aspects of the program to the U.S.
The first step in becoming a Dementia Friend is learning to recognize the signs of dementia (or other cognitive impairment), which could include any of the following signs:
It doesn’t matter if a person exhibiting these signs actually has dementia; what matters is that all people are equipped to respond appropriately and in a supportive manner. A series of short online training videos depicts situations where you may encounter someone living with dementia in a variety of community settings including a restaurant, grocery store, library or bank or on a public transit system — and provides information on how you can help in such situations. After viewing the videos, you can become a Dementia Friend by committing to an activity that will help someone in your community with dementia.
Take just a few minutes to become a Dementia Friend at DementiaFriendsUSA.org. You can also check out Dementia Friendly America to learn how DFA is fostering “dementia friendly” communities across the country and how your community can become a safe and respectful place for individuals and families that are addressing this disease.
As we say at Dementia Friendly America: Living with value and purpose in the community is a human right.
Stephanie K. Firestone is a senior strategic policy advisor, health and age-friendly communities, AARP International, and a member of the Dementia Friendly America National Council.