Older adults face unique challenges when it comes to being active in the community. But, they might not become apparent until they’re faced head-on. It’s often small details that make the difference between an age friendly community that promotes a positive perspective on aging, and one that doesn’t.
For example, a homebound senior might have difficulty getting nutritious meals because it is they are unable to go to the grocery store. Solution? In some communities, programs and businesses provide home-delivered food and hot meals to the elderly and people with disabilities.
An overwhelming amount of data shows that our communities will need to adapt to an aging population soon. People are living longer and our older populations are growing. The average life expectancy today is about 78 years old. By 2050, it’s projected that the population age 65 and older will be almost double what it is now.
As the number of older adults increases, we need to make sure that our communities are age friendly. Simple adjustments can make cities better suited for people of all ages.
What does it mean to be age friendly?
An age-friendly community allows people of all ages to participate in activities that keep the community healthy and encourage economic stability. It is a place where older persons can easily stay connected with others and remain independent. An age-friendly community also looks out for those who need support to age successfully.
Some organizations and individuals have already taken steps to make their environments age friendly. These kinds of initiatives benefit the entire community. Simple supports ultimately lead to more dollars spent in the local economy, more individuals contributing to the community, and fewer health issues caused by high-risk environments for seniors.
How can you promote an age-friendly community?
Age-friendly communities keep residents connected, healthy, and active. To be age friendly, a community needs to meet the needs of people of all ages, whether someone is pushing a stroller or using a walker. The following are ways to promote an age-friendly community:
1. Age-friendly communities start at home
Make sure your home is age-friendly. Installing the right equipment (such as handrails or brighter lighting) can help seniors stay active and prevent falls.
2. Evaluate the environment
As we age, mobility can become more difficult. Take a look at the design of buildings, parks, transit areas, and other structures. Do they support the needs of older adults? If not, find out what you can do to improve them.
3. Support healthy choices
Communities benefit from healthier food options and opportunities for activities. Farmers’ markets and community programs can promote healthy lifestyles for older adults.
4. Leverage the older population
Many older adults want to contribute to the community. Look for opportunities to engage with seniors as volunteers, mentors, or older workers.
5. Support programs that assist older adults
Often, local organizations offer programs and services that address the needs of older adults. But, these agencies need support from the community. Find out how you can help an age-friendly organization in your area.
6. Encourage your community’s elected leadership to join the AARP Network of Age-Friendly Communities
The AARP Network of Age-Friendly Communities is an affiliate of the World Health Organization’s Age-Friendly Cities and Communities Program. Membership means that your community’s elected leadership has made the commitment to actively work toward making your town, city, or county a great place for people of all ages.
Recognizing the needs of all community members
Creating and maintaining an age-friendly environment is essential for the success of an entire community. We are all aging, and it’s necessary to recognize the factors that improve the lives of older populations of today and for generations to come.
Age-friendly efforts help seniors continue to be valuable and active participants in their community. And the good news is, anyone can help make the aging experience better. There are so many ways to promote positive aging, from suggesting improvements to your local officials to volunteering or giving to an agency that helps seniors, to simply reflecting on how you view aging.
Interesting in supporting older adults in Northeast Ohio? Find out how you can help on our Ways to Give page.