Age Friendly Cities Initiative

Maplewood and South Orange have joined together to obtain a grant to explore ways in which both towns can become more livable for persons of all ages. For the past three weeks, subcommittees made up of municipal government leaders, resident senior citizens, and service providers have been meeting to explore ways in which this initiative can be carried out with an emphasis on finding ways to make it easier for seniors in our two towns to age in place or at very least age in community. This is the time to make your thoughts known. If there are services you as a senior or friend or relative of a senior would like to see in place, please post your ideas here so we can start a dialog.

You should also share these ideas with municipal leaders who would be in the best position to put them in practice be it mayor/village president, township committee/board of trustees member, department head responsible for the area in which change/enhancement is needed, member of senior advisory committee (only SO has one at the moment), or community activist currently working to better circumstances for seniors. If you are not sure who the best person would be to contact at this time, try posting your issue here and hopefully someone reading your post will be able to provide the best contact.

oh congratulations on this wonderful step! grin it's brilliant for quality of life, for business, for intergenerational social planning, for best practice in population health - for so many reasons! And the very best reason: it's just more enjoyable!

@ joanne: Agree this is an important step with a lot of potential for improving quality of life in our two two towns for so many of us. Are any municipalities in Australia moving in this direction, either following the WHO model or developing one of their own? If so, perhaps you could share some of the more successful ways in which they have carried out this initiative.

What causes older people to move from MSO? Livability or cost? I think that cost will weigh heavily on me before convenience and accessibility become concerns.

It is often a combination of the two. Taxes are the most frequently cited cause among those discussing the problem. Our housing stock is a very close second. Many of our seniors live in the one family houses in which they raised their children. These houses require a fair amount of maintenance inside and out. Given that we have very few ranch-style houses in town, stairs leading from one level to another can be a challenge as we age. Lack of sufficient age-friendly, affordable downsizing options is another reason why seniors leave town in such numbers.

Those who do remain often complain about being left out. No computer? Difficult to know what is going on in town. Can't drive any more or can only drive in daylight? Hard to get to doctor's appointments or attend important meetings/social events. Have difficulty walking? Uneven sidewalks, poor street lighting, lack of traffic calming all make it difficult to get around. These are just some of the quality of life issues that need to be addressed.

Joan, I'm sorry I couldn't reply earlier to request for Aussie responses to these town planning matters.

A couple of decades ago, as inclusivity was emerging in response to working with different modes of mobility and ways to manipulate tools, we realised that our communities needed to be easier to navigate for people with disabilities (whether or not they use assistive tools). We also realised we needed to be more aware of the presence of children, with or without guardians; and foot traffic over vehicular traffic. Some interesting shifts happened, about the same time as they were occurring in other parts of the world.

We have more consultation, at every level of government and for every stage of planning. Usually this involves community (consumer) input as stakeholder input - because it's good for business.

Most citizens aren't aware of the shifts, things 'just happened', they noticing now because the mood of our federal govt is to remove this 'nanny state' and 'red tape-ism' (none of which it is) and go back forty or fifty years, when it was harder.

@joanne Thanks for the feedback. I hope that movement away from the "nanny state" does not result in loss of infrastructure improvements and programs/services that make our towns and cities more livable for all of us.

Specific programs:

Many areas in Australia have free travel for seniors at off-peak times of day, usually within your own city. You have a special travel pass, and get concessions the rest of the time. So: it's free to travel on a tram, bus or ferry anywhere on the Gold Coast between 10am-3pm, and half-price the rest of the time. If you're going from here to Brisbane, it's half-price.

If you're using a pass from interstate, it might be honoured depending on the kind of pass it is. Parking permits (accessible parking etc) are usually honoured, especially if you've rung the City Council in advance so they can record your permit number.

You can apply for 50% concession on taxi fares, too, if you're unable to walk well. There are also alternate Community Transport projects to help people who don't drive get to medical appointments, do their shopping, and meet friends.

More than that, we embraced Universal Design as a national Building Code or Standard that's meant to be adhered to in the first plans for any new building especially any public building. Unfortunately, people fiddle with it but it's improved actual access to premises.

We're currently in the process of nationally changing how we coordinate all the things a family needs when someone's ageing in-place and moving from independent to increased frailty. If you look at the My Aged Care website, you'll see what's planned and where we're up to. That has huge impact at the local level: if my job is social support and you want to go walking or meet your friends, the pavement must be wide enough for your walker or wheelchair and me plus opposite pedestrians, and in good repair; there must be accessible parking; we must recharge points for electric wheelchairs/scooters in public places like shopping centres and sports venues and parks; we need better street lighting and more benches with straight backs, arms -benches that won't burn fragile older skin in summer! We also need to consider the impact of glare and reflection on the eyes of drivers with glaucoma and cataracts (in the early stages you can still drive), as well as on pedestrians.... More shady trees that don't obstruct eyelines are needed, more canopies and shade cloth.

We have after-hours home visiting doctors that bulk-bill to Medicare so it's not a burden if you're sick; our health system here (this region) is fully integrated, designed to keep you out of hospital.

We had a speaker for my senior groups yesterday: the Older Men's Club, then the Ladies. The multicultural community liaison officer from our regional police came to talk about personal safety, while having morning tea with us. Nao Hirano is a wonderful gentleman anyway (I know him from other roles), and he allowed our members' life experience to shine as he explained the perplexing new worlds of cyber crime, identity theft, elder abuse, and the growing indignities of becoming invisible in public. My 90+year-olds kept him for hours longer than we'd planned.

Joan, I'm not sure how helpful this ramble is. grin you might remember about 10 years ago or a little more I got very excited about a project Wodonga was doing with David Engwicht, to Reclaim Our Spaces. David is the man who thought of the 'walking bus' program for school kids. He's also a consultant on safer community spaces. Together with a community consultant (Chip Connell?? I'm not sure), there were lots of meetings to see what people wanted - and you know, Albury, Wangarrata, and here it's the same. People want to walk in their streets, catch a bus or train easily, play with their kids or meet friends; they'd like to enjoy a community meal once in a while; not go too far for shops or doctors. They want a doctor to see them at home at night if they're sick and scared.

I'm going out for a bit, ask if you like and I'll do research.

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