Yesterday, I talked about all the reasons we need to be concerned about our rapidly aging population. Today, I’ll explain how the United Nations is asking all of us in the public and private sectors to come together to create better living conditions for our aging society this decade. The hard truth is that unless everyone makes real creative efforts, many of oldest in our communities will face great hardships as they age. As a departure doula, I’m committed to prioritizing these initiatives and improving the quality of life in my community in the coming decade.
One of the first areas that needs to be addressed is creating environments – physical, economic and social – that allow better access for people 60 and older to continue participating in the activities in their communities. Even if an older person’s mental and physical capacity is diminished, they still deserve the ability to participate in the things that give their lives quality and enjoyment. Creating age-friendly environments require us to enable our older population to have autonomy in their lives, to diminish ageism, and provide support for programs that encourage and facilitate healthy living while aging at every level in our communities.
Here in the United States, cities and towns that are committed to creating more age-friendly environments for their citizens can become members of the AARP’s Network of Age-Friendly States and Communities. Membership does not mean that communities have completed their goals but that they are actively engaging with a diverse section of their community, especially those for whom services are needed, and carefully considering those needs in their plans for public spaces, improving access to transportation sources and making communities safer for pedestrians, bicyclists, while expanding access to public transit that is accommodating and safe.
I, for one, had no idea this network existed, and am not surprised that no community in my neck of the woods is currently a member. The metropolitan area nearest to me has been a member for about 5 years. I know walkability is a big issue in my neighborhood and community. More than a few pedestrians and bicyclists are struck by vehicular traffic each year in a community of less than 80,000. The fact that you could be struck by a car definitely doesn’t create an accommodating and friendly community, regardless of how old you are. It’s an area that several people I know are fighting through with little forward momentum.
I will be informing this group of concerned citizens that the AARP Network of Age-Friendly States and Communities offers yearly grants to help agencies, governments and others wanting to improve the age-friendliness of their neighborhoods. If you work with or provide services for those aged 60 or older, it’s definitely worth checking out. This year’s grants have been awarded, but they are annual. Grants from this group were able to improve public spaces, transportation and mobility; provide more safe, accessible and affordable housing; increase civic engagement; and provide more services for Coronavirus recovery efforts in myriad communities. around the country.
Think about the things you enjoy doing today: even something as simple as going to the grocery, attending family or community events, or taking your pet for a walk. How would those opportunities be impacted if you could no longer drive or no longer walk without assistance? Would you be stuck at home? Would you be afraid to walk down your street if you couldn’t hear or see vehicles or others approaching you due to diminished hearing or vision? These are all areas where we can make a difference by advocating for people who may not be as abled as we. The truth is we could all find ourselves here one day and having a more livable community benefits everyone right now.