ST PETERSBURG –Pinellas County is most widely recognized for its wide stretches of white sandy beaches. But it is people’s true love affair with St. Petersburg that makes it such a great place to live, work or retire.
AARP has been working across Florida and the nation to make communities more livable for all generations. That’s why AARP Florida hosted a group of civic, arts, and cultural leaders to examine the factors that go into creating a livable community for all ages.
Author of For the Love of Cities, Peter Kageyama, who was a panelist at the forum, discussed many reasons why people feel special connections to places. But he said when it comes to older adults, walkability is a big factor.
“When we walk our city, we experience it at level and pace that is impossible to do in a car. We connect with our city when we walk,” he explained.
According to AARP research, walkability is key to not only a community connection, but to independence as we age as well.
Kageyama said, “Walking also allows for improvising, a key ingredient in discovery and curiosity. Discovering new things about our cities is one way to keep our love affairs alive.”
When it comes to St. Petersburg, a city that is experiencing a major renaissance, participants identified what are known as the “unpolished gems,” that have led to its steady rise. Education, research, and programs and events like a burgeoning Saturday market are contributing to the city’s economic and cultural success. The rise is in part by positioning the city once known as “God’s Waiting Room” as an accessible, fun and welcoming place for people looking to reimagine their lives.
Author of Building Simple Community, and Living Simple Community Richard Luker Ph.D., was also on the panel. Luker writes about the importance of “places,” when it comes to building successful communities. “At the heart of wonderful experiences are the places where people gather. We cannot take these places for granted,” he said.
Public planning and land use are also keys to AARP’s livable communities. Both the availability and design of gathering places impact successful aging. AARP has a wealth of information and resources on Livable Communities including 1,000+ case studies, best practice examples, planning documents, and funding information to help you learn, plan, and act.
Beyond physical space, though, the panelists agreed that it takes special kinds of people to spark the innovations and “love notes” that make a city not just livable, but lovable. While Kageyama’s work focuses on “co-creators,” the people who make things happen, and Luker focuses on “community champions,” the natural organizers who bring people together, the best examples of community innovations require both sets of skills and personality, whether in a remarkable individual or a partnership. Finding, encouraging, and connecting these people give leaders an opportunity to increase the love of their community.