In the spring of 2013, AARP North Carolina began building a new, permanent base in the Queen City to help develop new initiatives that would aid people 50+ to live their lives to the fullest. Two full time staff – Michael Olender and Leo Scarpati – spent the year laying a foundation on which to build a range of new local initiatives that would be felt across all areas that are important to older North Carolinians. Here’s a peek at what we accomplished in the last 8 months:
- Creation of the AARP Charlotte Volunteer Network, a group of movers and shakers dedicated to outreach and education programs for people 50+ in Charlotte. This group of volunteers self-select into one or more teams that focus on particular issues and outreach programs.
- The new Coffee and Conversation series, an informal but informative series of programs on important topics hosted at libraries all across the city. Among the 35 programs offered since the summer, topics included understanding the impact of the Affordable Care Act and listening sessions to better understand how Charlotte can become better prepared for the challenges of the baby boom.
- Dozens of AARP information booths at community events all across the city, providing valuable information to people about topics ranging from long term care to consumer fraud prevention to support for the older worker.
- The AARP Financial Freedom Conference, which took place in October, brought together hundreds of Charlotte residents looking to find ways to save for retirement and avoid the pitfalls of investing. Hosted at Mount Carmel Baptist Church, the conference featured a top-line panel of speakers, several workshops featuring extensive Q&A sessions, and a 6 month commitment to provide free one-on-one financial counseling for participants and partnering local churches.
- Walkable Charlotte Week, which helped raise awareness of the issue of “walkability” for people of all ages and abilities. More than 25 intersections across the city were surveyed by volunteers in coordination with the Charlotte Department of Transportation, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Library system and Senior Centers, Inc. AARP will continue working with the city to help make the city’s street crossings more safe and accommodating.
- Making a More Livable Mecklenburg, a livable communities summit which brought together Mayor Patsy Kinsey, City Manager Ron Carlee, and more than a dozen organizations and agencies to discuss how the region is preparing for the demographic challenges of the coming decades. More than 100 stakeholders and community leaders came together to speak about their work and learn new opportunities to work together.
- Drive the End Hunger at the Coke 600 Nascar Race. AARP North Carolina and AARP Foundation joined to help raise awareness of the issue of hunger among older Americans at the kickoff to NASCAR season at Charlotte Motor Speedway. AARP volunteers and staff ran an entertaining but educational exhibit for three days and help raise more money to fight hunger than in any previous year!
- New AARP local discounts being offered for select games with the Charlotte Bobcasts and Charlotte Checkers.
- The new monthly e-newsletter, which shares information on upcoming events and reports on recent activities and programs that you need to know about.
- The launch of Better Charlotte, a new series of short YouTube videos highlighting how AARP volunteers are working in their communities to helping make a better Charlotte. Check out first episode, featuring local hunger leader Carol Wilson.
So what’s next?
2014 is going bring about much more for the Queen City. Here’s a glimpse of what you can look forward to in the new year:
- Expansion of the Coffee and Conversation series to include a new menu of programs. New individual series will be launched help bring important and relevant discussions and information to your community. Topics include: a new series preparing you and your family for long term care; a series of workshops for the 50+ worker; long term financial security; avoiding consumer fraud; and the effort to fight hunger in Charlotte. Like all of our programs, these workshops are free of charge, completely non-commercial and offered all across the city.
- A new partnership with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Library system, highlighting books that are especially important to the 50+. This will be piloted across all branches in May 2014, Older Americans Month.
- Exciting new AARP local discounts focusing on arts, culture, recreation and sporting events
- Regular engagement with city officials and agencies to help make Charlotte and the region a more livable community for all
- New multi-media outlets using social media and the monthly e-newsletter so you can learn about what we are doing in Charlotte right from your phone or tablet
We look forward to 2014 and we hope you will join us in our efforts to make Charlotte the best city to age-in-place! Follow us at Twitter @AARPCLT or Facebook/AARPNC