Is your community next?
Five Maine towns and cities are systematically working to become more age-friendly, by participating in the AARP’s Network of Age Friendly Communities.
The aging of Maine’s population presents new challenges for Maine communities.
“The median age in Maine is 44—the oldest in the nation,” according to Lori Parham, AARP Maine state director.
AARP surveys show that a large majority of Mainers – about 85% -- would prefer to age in place or age in community. The age-friendly community initiative addresses livability issues, including housing, transportation, social isolation and other supports important to older Mainers who want to age in place.
Paris, Bowdoinham, Kennebunk, Portland, and Ellsworth have so far begun working with the age-friendly model to become more age-friendly. AARP members should consider whether an organized age-friendly effort might be useful in their communities.
To begin, each community does a strategic plan analyzing its strengths and weaknesses in eight areas, and then an action plan to address any weaknesses found. Bowdoinham got the earliest start and has worked hard on the accessibility of public buildings and developed an ambitious program of events for seniors. The Bowdoinham group is also turning its attention to transportation and to providing a “Handyman Brigade” to help with home projects.
Transportation is a top priority in most of the communities. Volunteer programs are the focus, either independently of as part of the Village movement, which is gaining attention across Maine and the U.S. The Village movement creates membership-driven, grass-roots organizations run by volunteers and (sometimes) paid staff to coordinate access to affordable services including transportation, health and wellness programs, home repairs, social and educational activities. In Maine, At Home Downeast is the farthest along with providing services on the Blue Hill Peninsula under this model. Kennebunk and groups in Portland, Scarborough, the Boothbay Peninsula, and elsewhere are considering the Village model.
To encourage these ageing in place efforts, the AARP has developed the Age Friendly Community Network approach. AARP Maine is working on the program in cooperation with community activists, volunteer community groups, and towns and cities. AARP Maine has retained a veteran town planner to help community groups and towns do a strategic plan and develop policies that make it easier for residents to age in place.
“It’s easy to set out a community’s strengths and weaknesses, and then make an action plan to address them,” said Peter Morelli, who is leading the AARP age friendly effort in Maine.
Funded in Maine by the John T. Gorman Foundation in cooperation with the AARP, the program helps communities take stock of their current resources and to plan for changes in housing, health care, and transportation to meet the needs of Maine’s rapidly aging population. The initiative provides a model to evaluate how services for aging Mainers are provided, and for the development of community action plans to address aging issues.
If you or your community might have an interest in planning for Maine’s changing demographics in your town, contact Peter Morelli, firstname.lastname@example.org, or 712-7105.
For information on the AARP’s Age Friendly Community program: http://www.aarp.org/livable-communities/network-age-friendly-communities/info-2014/an-introduction.html
Age Friendly Resources
Members of the AARP Network of Age-Friendly Communities become part of a network of communities committed to providing older adults with the opportunity to live rewarding, productive and safe lives. AARP Maine will work with any Maine communities who want to address the important issues of aging in place and aging in community. Among the services and resources AARP can provide:
Find our Age Friendly Tool Kit at http://www.aarp.org/livable-communities/network-age-friendly-communities/ The AARP Age Friendly assessment tools can be used as is or modified by any community who wishes to do so.
AARP staff can attend early meetings of age friendly community groups, helping to get the process off on the right foot.
AARP can provide a model age friendly community survey and advise on how to administer it.
AARP Maine has a small grant program to support age-friendly community planning designed to include low and moderate income older adults.
The Eight Domains of an Age Friendly Community
The age friendly community program is organized around eight aspects of community life relevant to aging Mainers. Three involve the built environment: outdoor spaces and buildings, transportation, and housing. And five focus on the social environment: social participation, respect and social inclusion, civic participation and employment, communication and information, and community support and health.
Similar to a business strategic plan, the planning process starts with a group of issues to assess and plan for. The AARP categorizes the first three issues as the “built environment” and the latter five as the “social environment.”
- Outdoor spaces and buildings
Availability of safe and accessible recreational facilities
Safe and affordable modes of private and public transit
Range of housing options for older residents, the ability to age in place and home-modification programs
- Social participation
Access for older adults to leisure and cultural activities, and opportunities for social and civic engagement with both peers and younger people
- Respect and social inclusion
Programs to promote ethnic and cultural diversity, as well as multigenerational interaction and dialogue
- Civic participation and employment
Paid work and volunteer activities for older adults, and opportunities to engage in the creation of policies relevant to their lives
- Communication and information
Access to technology that helps older people connect with their community, friends and family
- Community support and health services
Access to homecare services, health clinics and programs that promote wellness and active aging
If you think your community might have an interest in planning for Maine’s changing demographics, contact Peter Morelli, email@example.com, or 712-7105. For information on the AARP’s Age-Friendly Community program: http://bit.ly/1mv6NzN
Photo: Paris, Maine, Downtown Revitalization Chair Jeanie Stone and Selectman Robert Wessels receive a certificate recognizing Paris’ participation in the AARP Network of Age-Friendly Communities from the AARP’s Peter Morelli. - See more at: https://states.aarp.org/aarp-age-friendly-community-in-paris-begins-planning-with-community-survey/#sthash.IGwUske4.dpuf