AARP recently announced the five winners of the AARP Purpose Prize™. The AARP Purpose Prize™ recognizes outstanding work by people age 50 and over that is focused on advancing social good.
The winners of the 2017 AARP Purpose Prize Award are:
Cynthia Barnett, founder and CEO, Amazing Girls Science, Norwalk, Conn.
Retired high school administrator Barnett was disappointed to see girls losing interest in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), so she created Amazing Girls Science. Through activities like coding camps, robotics workshops, and hackathons, the nonprofit inspires young girls to consider STEM-focused careers.
Reid Cox, co-founder and CFO, iFoster, Truckee, Calif.
Cox and his wife Serita, a former foster child, put their tech company experience to work in order to help families navigate the challenges of foster care. Their online community, iFoster, connects foster children and families with highly needed financial, educational, and social support resources.
James Farrin, executive director, The Petey Greene Program, Princeton, NJ
In 2007, former business consultant Farrin gathered 20 students from his alma mater Princeton University to tutor prison inmates studying for the GED. The Petey Greene Program — named for a former inmate-turned-activist and popular 70s- and 80s-era radio/TV host — has flourished, with students from 30 colleges now tutoring 1,500 individuals in 34 facilities.
Celeste Mergens, founder and CEO, Days for Girls, Mount Vernon, Wash.
Mergens started Days for Girls eight years ago to supply young girls in a Kenyan orphanage with feminine hygiene products so they wouldn’t have to miss school during their periods. This nonprofit has helped 800,000 women and girls worldwide, sidestepping cultural taboos to educate them about their bodies.
Mike Weaver, Founder, Weaver & Concerned Citizens of Aiken/Atlanta Now (WeCCAAN), Atlanta, Ga.
Former college professor Weaver teaches the value of public service by bringing teens and adults together for service-learning trips to communities in need. From cleaning vacant lots to creating community gardens, Weaver and Concerned Citizens of Aiken/Atlanta Now is making a difference in the lives and futures of its participants as well as the recipients of their volunteerism. Weaver is also the recipient of 2017 Andrus Award for Intergenerational Excellence, named after AARP’s founder.
In recognition of their outstanding community-focused work, each winner will receive a $50,000 cash award from AARP at the AARP Purpose Prize Award Gala, to be held in Chicago November 2.
In addition, AARP named 10 individuals AARP Purpose Prize Awards Fellows, they are: Bonnie Addario, Founder and Chair, Bonnie Addario Lung Cancer Foundation, San Carlos, Calif.; Gary Eichhorn, CEO, Music & Youth Initiative Boston, Mass.; Laurie Green, MD, Founder/ President & CEO, The MAVEN ProjectSan Francisco, Calif.; Annie Griffiths, Executive Director, Ripple Effect Images, Reston, Va.; Cindy Kerr, Founder/CEO, Ryan’s Case for Smiles, Wayne, Pa.; Sister Marilyn Lacey, Mercy Beyond Borders, Santa Clara, Calif.; Ashok Malhotra, Founder/President, The Ninash Foundation, Oneonta, N.Y.; Anne Pollack, Executive Director/Founder, Crossing Point Arts, Inc., New York, N.Y.; Lynn Price, Founder, Camp to Belong, Aurora, Colo., and Juanita Suber, President, My Sistah’s Place/Golden Generations, Inc., St. Petersburg, Fla.
Nominations are now open for the 2018 AARP Purpose Prize, here: www.aarp.org/purposeprize
Every person, regardless of age, can participate in creating a livable community. According to a newly published report from Generations United, opportunities that bring different generations together—even the tougher ones involving “tack[ling] critical problems” benefit the entire community.
Though somewhat counterintuitive, finding solutions to meet the needs of older adults must involve voices and collaboration coming from people of all ages. Various generations offer different perspectives, and in fact, people of all ages gain value from age friendly concepts. A recent project we led proved to be a living example.
A Winning Project
The likelihood of having a disability that limits a person’s mobility increases with age. Homes with physical barriers can present risk of falls and injuries, especially for someone with mobility challenges. In 2016, AARP and its partners called for submissions to a competition-style project that sought new solutions for homes that best accommodate our needs as we age. “Re-Defining Home: Home Today, Home Tomorrow,” developed through AARP’s Future of Housing Initiative, asked architects to redesign an existing home while embracing the concept of universal design—that is, design that supports and empowers all people and families: retirees, caregivers and their loved ones, people with disabilities, singles, and young and multigenerational families.
AARP and partners renovated a home in Memphis, TN to incorporate universal design features to accommodate the needs of residents as they age. New features include an open space floor plan with flexible space, wide hallways and spacious bathroom with a curb-less shower.
Photo: Benjamin Rednour
Entrants were challenged to discard typical designs usually targeted towards older adults such as ramps or shower handrails. Rather, competition judges wanted to see evidence of innovative thinking around how affordability, flexibility, community, accessibility, beauty and functionality could best be reflected in a home for people who want to remain in their homes as they age.
Designers incorporated features that provide opportunities to engage the community. Front yard planters can become a community garden. Large windows invite interaction with neighbors. Photo: Benjamin Rednour
The winning team included three junior architects, from IBI Group—Gruzen Samton, Gabriel Espinoza, Carmen Velez, and Timothy Gargiulo—professionals under age 30. Their designs considered what it means to age in place successfully: creating an easily navigable home, incorporating features to reduce fall risks, as well as creating space to nurture and maintain family and community connections. Ms. Velez no doubt drew from her own experience living with her grandmother, Carmencita Bengzon, to help inform the team’s choices. Ultimately, this winning team’s original and imaginative plans were incorporated into a house in Memphis, TN—now the home of a veteran and his family, including his mom, who has limited mobility.
IBI Group—Gruzen Samton architects, Gabriel Espinoza, Timothy Gargiulo, and Carmen Velez speak about their winning designs at the home renovation reveal (left). Mr. Walter Moody and his mother, see their “ageless” home for the first time (right). Photo: Benjamin Rednour
Also achieving success in age disruption was the entry from 11-year old Jennifer Haage, a self-described future architect. (Yes, that’s right—when we say all ages should contribute, we mean all ages.) In her thoughtful and comprehensive proposal, Jenny shared her ideas for aging within a home suitable for all families. Her designs included using wide hallways for wheelchair accessibility, creating multi-functional spaces, adding in interior and exterior green spaces, and incorporating a “cat corner,” since pets can be great companionship for older adults who may feel isolated.
Designs from Jennifer Haage, age 11, who shared her vision for an “ageless” home. Photo: Jennifer Haage
All-Ages Approach a Winning Combination
The Re-Defining Home competition illustrates how accessible home design can be duplicated across the country. The winning team exemplifies younger generations taking action to solve pressing issues that make stronger communities for all. Encouraging and inspiring young people to participate in aging issues can positively impact their families, careers and communities—and help us to make places more livable for people, both today and tomorrow.
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Shannon Guzman is a policy research senior analyst with the AARP Public Policy Institute, where she works on housing, transportation and land-use issues. Shannon focuses on policies and programs that create livable communities for people of all ages. For more information about livable communities visit, www.aarp.org/livable. Photo: DFinney