AARP Arkansas is building a community presence in the University District located in Little Rock. It’s part of a national initiative by AARP to work with local organizations in specific cities or neighborhoods on issues that affect older people in those areas.
See Also: Livable Communities
AARP’s local partner in the community presence project is the University District Partnership, which focuses on revitalizing the neighborhoods and commercial areas around the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. Home to about 10,000 people and centrally located in Little Rock, the University District has easy access to major regional employers and consists of several traditional, reasonably priced neighborhoods.
As part of the University District community presence project, AARP Arkansas is involved in assessing the challenges of seniors within the district and responding to them in relevant and meaningful ways. The current focus is on improving walkability/fitness, reducing isolation by encouraging social connections, and improving the public safety and security of seniors.
AARP Arkansas staff and volunteers meet regularly with the University Seniors Network, a representative group of seniors who reside in the University District. The AARP/University District Partnership advisory team will communicate with seniors in the district to gain a broader base of input in the formation of the University District Seniors Network.
Several activities to strengthen and diversify the community presence project and the Network have already occurred. In January 2012, world-renowned walkability expert Dan Burden led a workshop at UALR sponsored by the Arkansas Coalition for Obesity Prevention, AARP and UALR. Burden explained to the audience how an unwalkable and unlivable community impacts the public health. Following the presentation, Burden led a walking audit of the University District.
The University District Partnership and UALR hope to incorporate ideas generated during the workshop in recommendations to the city of Little Rock’s street improvements. Ideas include constructing roundabouts at high-traffic intersections and establishing measures designed to slow down, calm and “civilize” traffic.
The UD Partnership and AARP also have sponsored several events designed to raise awareness about the various resources and attractions available in the University District. In April, AARP and the UD Partnership sponsored an outing for senior residents of the district. AARP provided tickets to the Stephen Sondheim musical “Into the Woods” at UALR, and hosted a reception before the performance.
In July, the UD Partnership and AARP hosted a reception and tour of the Sequoyah National Research Center, a unique facility dedicated to the collection, preservation and dissemination of Native American expression in all forms. Other events include a Wellness Fair in September, participation in the National Night Out on October 2 and admission to UALR Trojans basketball games this fall.
AARP and the UD Partnership also have supported measures to improve the overall quality of life in the District, including a recent expansion of raised bed gardens with long range goal of developing a neighborhood farmers market.