The City of Lansing officially joined the AARP Network of Age-Friendly Communities Thursday, an important step in preparing to accommodate a rapidly aging population.
Mayor Virg Bernero and AARP Michigan State Director Paula Cunningham took part in a news conference at the Alfreda Schmidt Community Center, flanked by AARP volunteers and staff from the city and AARP.
Entering the network is a signal that Lansing will become a great place for all ages by adopting such features as safe, walkable streets; better housing and transportation options; access to key services; and opportunities for residents to participate in community activities.
“This is part of an endeavor to make Lansing a safer, more comfortable place for all as we age,” Bernero said, adding “we have a great partnership with AARP. I want to give credit to Paula Cunningham and AARP for pushing us.”
Cunningham thanked the mayor for taking this forward-looking step.
“You can’t get here without leadership,” she said.
Cunningham also singled out Karen Kafantaris, AARP Associate State Director of Livable Communities and Andy Kilpatrick, City of Lansing Transportation Engineer, who were especially instrumental in bringing Lansing into the network.
Cunningham noted that some of the changes residents will see are simple, but important, such as lengthening crosswalk timing to accommodate both a person with a walker and a young couple pushing a stroller.
The AARP Network of Age-Friendly Communities was launched in 2012 and is an affiliate of the World Health Organization’s Age-Friendly Cities and Communities Program.
Entering the program is the first of a four-step process that takes five years to complete and moves through planning, implementation, evaluation and then a continuous cycle of improvement.
Benefits to Lansing will include access to:
- Experts who are experienced in building livable communities;
- Best practices established in communities that have been through this process;
- A volunteer network;
n And AARP resources such as aarp.org/livable, which offers a load of information about making communities more livable for everyone.
Also, this is a proven planning framework that city leaders who have used it say is helpful in winning grants for improvement projects.
“Your taxes are not going to go up,” Cunningham remarked with a smile.
This is a community interactive program. Citizens will be invited to “community conversations” where they can offer comments and suggestions about what improvements and services are needed and then are involved in creating solutions.
“Lansing is the third community in Michigan to do this – the only one outside of the Detroit area,” Bernero noted. Other Michigan cities that have joined the network are Auburn Hills and Highland Park.
AARP Volunteer Willie Vinson said at the news conference she is a 75-year-old Lansing resident who wants to see services improved in the city so she can remain there. She presented the Age-Friendly Communities certificate to Mayor Bernero.
“This has been a dream of mine to have Lansing join the Age-Friendly Communities Network,” she said.