None of us are getting any younger. In fact, central Ohio’s 65 and over population is expected to double in the next 30 years. Because of that, I’d like to make you aware of a nationwide initiative I recently became involved with that is helping our local communities accommodate our growing aging population.
It’s called Age-Friendly.
Age-Friendly is a collaboration between the World Health Organization’s Global Network for Age-Friendly Cities and Communities and AARP Network of Age-Friendly States and Communities. The goal is to make local communities a great place to grow old using input from seniors themselves. I believe it is a much-needed program that deserves attention and support from the public.
Age-Friendly has rolled out in over 30 states around the county. In central Ohio alone, there are three: Columbus/Franklin County, Delaware and Westerville. Age-Friendly Columbus was the first to join the network in 2015.
For each community, the five-year plan begins by collecting information via focus groups, neighborhood site assessments, and a comprehensive survey sent out to the 55+age population. The survey asks responders to rate their level of satisfaction and importance in the following eight areas:
- Outdoor Spaces and Buildings
- Safety and Emergency Preparedness
- Respect, Inclusion and Social Participation
- Employment and Civic Engagement
- Communication and Information
- Community Support and Health Services
After the results are compiled, a strategic plan is put in place, measured and revisited.
The survey helps program officials understand what’s important to seniors, and develop programs to respond to those needs. For example, Age-Friendly Columbus survey results revealed there are not enough safe, convenient, and affordable mobility options in Columbus. The Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission is helping to address this.
Age-Friendly in Franklin County, Westerville and Delaware are newer to the program and are at different stages of implementation. Age-Friendly Delaware just released their survey results, and Age-Friendly Westerville plans to send the survey out this year.
This program is important to all of us because it ensures a high quality of life for people of all ages and abilities. If a local community is able to support the aging populations, seniors can stay where they are safely and healthfully.
Since learning about the Age-Friendly programs locally, I have chosen to get involved. I will be participating with the health focus in Age-Friendly Delaware, and have met with and am supporting Age-Friendly Westerville as they launch their program.
Now that you know about this program, I encourage you to get involved, too. You can learn more about Age-Friendly Columbus on their website and sign up to volunteer. If you receive the survey in the mail, please take the time to complete it. Seniors need to be vocal about their concerns and needs so that the community focuses resources on those identified issues.
I welcome the opportunity to talk with you about my involvement with Age-Friendly and answer any questions you may have. As an advocate for the group this program serves, I’m encouraged and excited about the impact it will have on central Ohio seniors.