Anchorage, Alaska is officially the 678th community to enroll in the AARP Network of Age-Friendly States and Communities (NAFSC). An AARP Age-Friendly Community is one where a city’s elected leadership has made a commitment to actively work with residents and local advocates to make their city a safe and fulfilling place to live for people of all ages. As an NAFSC member, Anchorage is now publicly recognized for its commitment to becoming age-friendly and will receive access to resources for identifying and assessing community needs, as well as technical assistance, expert-led webinars, and connections to a national network of over 670 enrolled communities. The AARP Network of Age-Friendly States and Communities is part of AARP’s larger livable communities work that focuses on hands-on, locally determined and directed initiatives. The common thread among the enrolled communities is the belief that the places where we live are better able to support people of all ages when local leaders commit to improving the quality of life for the very young, the very old, and everyone in between.
What makes a community age-friendly? Certain community features impact the well-being of older adults. The NAFSC identifies eight “Domains of Livability.” Future work for Anchorage will include efforts in some or all of the following domains:
- Outdoor Spaces and Buildings: Public places, indoors and out: green spaces and accessible buildings that can be used by people of all ages.
- Transportation: Driving shouldn’t be the only way to get around. This includes looking at sidewalks, bike lanes, public transit, shuttles, etc.
- Housing: Older adults are able to stay in their own homes with designs or modifications. “Aging in Place” should be an option for everyone.
- Social Participation: The key to alleviating sadness and isolation is opportunities for accessible and affordable social activities that are fun and meaningful.
- Respect and Social Inclusion: Everyone in the community feels valued. Intergenerational gatherings might enhance young and old learning from each other.
- Work and Civic Engagement: Encouraging all to be actively involved in community life including paid or volunteer opportunities.
- Communication and Information: Sharing community information through a variety of ways, making sure to accommodate those not “tech-savvy” and for whom English is a second language.
- Community and Health Services: All persons must be able to access and afford health care including seniors with Medicare.
The Anchorage age-friendly leadership team composed of AARP Alaska staff and local volunteers worked with the Mayor, Anchorage Chamber of Commerce, Senior Citizens Advisory Commission and others to complete the NAFSC application, launching a five-year process of improvement for our Anchorage community. With successful enrollment in the network, the team will now look to partners to build local capacity and learn about the major barriers facing Anchorage residents, with a focus on the needs of those over age 50. The leadership team will be led by Jim Bailey, Chair of the Senior Citizens Advisory Committee. The team will partner with civic volunteers, board and commission members, corporate resources, municipal assets, educational entities, healthcare professionals, faith community representatives, senior citizens, and others interested in making Anchorage an age friendly city.
Concurrent with efforts to build a network of local partners, the first step in our five-year process will be a city-wide community needs assessment. Using the results from that assessment, the Age Friendly Leadership Team will work with the city administration to develop an action and evaluation plan. They will include the voice of older Anchorage folks in all stages of planning and implementation moving forward. The team is planning to gather insights on the experiences of older Alaskans throughout the municipality from Girdwood north to Eklutna. This work will rely on volunteers, community groups and local stakeholders. There will be leadership opportunities for volunteers while benefitting people of all ages.
Anchorage already has several age-friendly programs, initiatives and opportunities in place but there is always room for improvement. The leadership team’s mission is to foster a livable, age-friendly community that promotes neighborhood cohesion and maximizes ways for residents to be active and engaged with neighbors, family and friends. If you are interested in joining the effort to make Anchorage a more age-friendly community, email us at AARPAK@aarp.org to volunteer. For more age-friendly information see: AARP.org/Livability or call 866-227-7447.