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Michigan, AARP join forces to make the state 'age-friendly'

Alexis Travis.jpg
Dr. Alexis Travis

The State of Michigan last fall joined the AARP Network of Age-Friendly States and the World Health Organization Global Network of Age-Friendly Cities and Communities.

The move is aimed at helping the state prepare for dramatic and imminent demographic changes and ensure that Michigan communities can take steps to accommodate all ages.

In the coming weeks, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services’ Aging & Adult Services Agency (AASA) will hold 16 community conversations across the state to learn about the highest needs of older adults.

In an interview with AARP Michigan, Dr. Alexis Travis, Senior Deputy Director of AASA, described how the age-friendly program will come to life in the state.

The interview follows:

Q: Dr. Travis, how will the age-friendly work be integrated into AASA’s state plan?
A: Every three years AASA develops a state plan on aging and seeks input regarding the opportunities, needs and gaps in programs and services for older Michiganders. The plan is submitted to the federal Administration for Community Living and is also a living, breathing guide for our work for the next three years. It serves as a blueprint that spells out the coordination and advocacy activities the state will undertake to meet the needs of older adults, including integrating health and social services delivery system. The age-friendly “8 Domains of Livability” have a particular impact on the well-being of older adults. The domains framework can be used to inform and strengthen our state plan.

Q: What do you hope to learn during the 16 community conversations across the state?
A: We truly want to hear directly from the community about the critical needs of older adults in our state, the strengths of existing programs, and the challenges that may exist. We will ask questions about programs and services and the extent to which the community supports older adults thriving in place. We know different communities have different needs and we want to ensure we have perspective from people throughout the state. We believe the feedback will give us greater insight, help improve the planning and design of new programs, provide a means of evaluating existing programs, and produce insights for developing strategies for future outreach.

Q: What do you expect to happen after the community conversations? What is the likely time frame?
A: Community conversations begin at the end of January and will likely wrap up in mid- March. Our state plan on aging is due to the Administration for Community Living by July 1. With help from AARP and Michigan’s aging network, which includes 16 Area Agencies on Aging and more than 1,300 services providers, we are inviting a diverse mix of people to provide input to the plan. We will analyze the data and feedback from the conversations, stakeholder interviews, and surveys and share it with the advisory committee leading the effort on creation of the new state plan to identify the areas of highest need and greatest opportunity.

Q: We understand that the Age-Friendly State initiative in Michigan is a partnership between the state of Michigan, supported by Governor Gretchen Whitmer, and AARP. What can you say about working with AARP?
A: My team and I enjoy working with AARP Michigan and we are thrilled to partner with (AARP). Through your incredible volunteer and member network we can reach so many with messaging around healthy aging and we can collect valuable insight on how to better meet the needs of older Michiganders. We appreciate the partnership with AARP and we welcome more opportunities to collaborate.

Q: Is there anything else you would like to add about bringing the age-friendly program to Michigan?
A: Michigan has an aging population, which brings with it many opportunities, but also some challenges. By 2025, the number of Michiganders age 65 and up will outnumber those under the age of 18. As people are living longer, we must continue to respond with expanded policies, programs and services to support older adults and be inclusive of this population across our great state. This is why I am thankful for Governor Whitmer’s leadership in signing on to the age-friendly initiative. My goal is to ensure all Michiganders have the ability to thrive in place as they age. I believe the age-friendly initiative will help enable Michiganders to thrive in the community, regardless of age.

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