RALEIGH — To help make North Carolina communities more livable for people of all ages, AARP NC awarded three “Community Challenge” grants to organizations working to expand opportunities and engagement for all residents.
A livable community is one that is safe and secure, has affordable and appropriate housing and transportation options, and offers supportive community features and services. Once in place, those resources enhance personal independence; allow residents to age in place; and foster residents’ engagement in the community’s civic, economic, and social life. Improvements in these domains make not only make places more “age-friendly,” they help improve the quality of life for all ages.
2017 Community Challenge Winners
For their work to support their communities and create change the City of Oaks Foundation in Raleigh, the Hinton Rural Life Center in Hayesville and the Orange County Department of Aging were selected for the grants, ranging from $2,500 to $10,000. Grant recipients were selected by an AARP panel of experts in aging issues, community development, and livable communities. In general, the projects were judged on the degree to which their goals make an immediate change that can lead to longer-term impact.
AARP North Carolina Director Doug Dickerson said, “When it comes to making communities great places for all ages, AARP NC listened to the needs of community organizations that could immediately put these dollars into meaningful local impact.”
“Every community has its own unique challenges, from rural communities that are far removed from social services such as Clay County, to urban locales like Raleigh with a burgeoning senior population wanting places to interact, these rapid action grants can be the critical spark for longer-term progress,” Dickerson said.
- Hinton Rural Life Center President and CEO Jaqueline Gottlieb said, “The funding provided by the AARP grant will allow passionate community leaders to become certified trainers in mental health services, first aid and drug education. By building a community of trainers, our rural area will have a better chance at preserving life, preventing further harm, and promoting addiction recovery and resiliency.”
- City of Oaks Foundation Director Chris Heagarty explains. “Our Community Challenge grant will bring together parents, grandparents, children, and grandchildren together in a beautiful public garden. Transforming a private residence into a special place for community events will bring neighbors together and create wonderful experiences and memories.”
- Orange County Department of Aging plans on using its grant money to help improve bus travel in the northern, rural parts of the county. Orange County Aging Transitions Administrator Mary Fraser said, “Although bus routes have been expanded within the past two years, there are currently very few bus stops with benches or shelters. Older adult riders currently have to wait while standing up, often on uneven terrain. The Community Challenge Award will allow the Department on Aging to purchase 15 sets of bus stop seats to be installed on routes that older adults most often use to go shopping, get to medical appointments, and to Senior Center activities.”
The most comprehensive program to make community livability for people of all ages a reality is the AARP Network of Age Friendly Communities. This ever-growing network includes more than 170 enrolled communities across more than three-dozen states, representing more than 65 million people. In North Carolina, over 2.5 million residents now live in areas working on age-friendly designation, with the forecast expected to reach 5 million residents in the next years as counties recognize the benefits of age-friendly designation.