AARP collaborates with APA Florida chapter to highlight
innovative projects that focus on 50+ residents

We hear the buzzword innovation a lot these days. It may make us think of a gadget, app or perhaps a robot that can cook our dinners. Why that may be useful, they perhaps only serve the one person using it.

Why not have innovation in planning our cities and communities?

Think about it: If we can get urban designers and city planners to think actively about their older residents, and how a community can actually make their residents live healthier, longer and more independent lives . . . this form of innovation could change the lives of millions across entire communities.

In Florida, AARP has partnered with the Florida Chapter of the American Planning Association to inspire and encourage planners to think about people from age 8 to 80 in city design and programming services. Together they created the Innovation in Planning for All Ages Award, which recognizes a program or campaign that emphasizes innovative planning in meeting the needs of the 50+ population and demonstrates how communities can become more age-friendly. (APA Florida is currently accepting nominations for this Florida-based award.)

The initiative recognizes a fact of demographic life: Florida’s older population is growing fast. A 2017 study by the Florida Legislature’s official forecasting showed that more than half of Florida’s population growth in the period 2010 to 2030 would come from people age 60-plus.

Nominations may include such things as affordable housing options for older residents or home modification resources, service delivery programs to help older residents live where they choose, pedestrian infrastructure, innovative transportation programs that increase senior mobility, projects fostering intergenerational and multi-cultural connection and socialization, project design that promote wellness and active aging.

“It’s a win-win for us to collaborate with APA Florida,” said Laura Cantwell, associate state director of advocacy for AARP Florida, who specializes on livable communities. “We get a built-in audience to educate Florida’s city planners on the wants and needs of aging populations, and they, in turn, can design friendlier cities in America’s grayest state.”

“We are delighted to have a strong partner to help make our communities more age friendly,” said Alex Magee, executive director of APA Florida. “As planners we are naturally innovative and creative. We know that many of our older residents develop mobility issues once they stop driving. Working with AARP helps us develop creative ways to help these residents age in their own homes and live independently longer.”

The award was introduced last year, during APA Florida’s Annual Conference. The winner was Sarasota County, for its Universal Design and Visitability program, a voluntary incentive program that increased the include of age-friendly design standard in new housing developments.

How do they incentivize developers? By fast-tracking permits and marketing as well as creating a certification system that rewards the builders who participate. Best of all, the program is cost-neutral and can easily be replicated. The county has used this program to educate its residents about the amenities older residents desire and has strengthened partnerships with local industry and advocacy groups.

“We all want the places we live to be welcoming for us throughout our lives,” Cantwell said. “AARP is proud to have played a role in creating this award.”