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New AARP Poll: Tampa Bay Residents Age 50-64 Shop Local, Like Their Neighbors and Love Their Community – Especially If They Brave Those “Bridge Trolls”
Local residents are happier with neighbors, more likely to say it’s easy to make friends, if they frequently cross Tampa Bay and patronize locally owned shops and restaurants.
St. PETERSBURG, FLA. — Tampa Bay residents age 50-64 like their neighborhoods and neighbors, are proud to tell people where they live, and like to eat at locally owned restaurants more than chains, according to a new AARP survey released today. But they’re even more likely to find it easy to make friends, shop locally and get involved in community activities if they frequently cross Tampa Bay’s bridges and risk the mythical “bridge trolls” that local residents sometimes joke about.
“This survey may strike a lighthearted tone in some respects, but it illuminates an important issue – how can we engage residents of Tampa, St. Petersburg and other Bay communities more deeply in the life of the local community,” said Jeff Johnson, AARP’s Florida state director. “Extensive research shows that communities flourish in many ways when residents engage with their neighbors, local businesses and local politics.”
Johnson said the survey’s results show that Tampa Bay community leaders should work toward changing Tampa Bay to help people live independently in their homes and communities throughout their lives. One step toward this goal would be for Tampa and St. Petersburg to join the AARP-World Health Organization Age-Friendly Communities Network, Johnson said.
AARP initiated the survey earlier this year to learn more about a sometimes overlooked part of the Tampa Bay community – residents ages 50-64. While much research focuses on issues facing Medicare-age (65-plus) Americans or those 85-plus, the 50-64 group is “harder to pin down,” Johnson said. “We don’t really even have a widely accepted term to describe the period of life they’re experiencing.”
The AARP survey reflected wide agreement among area residents 50-64 that the Tampa Bay region was a great place to live. In both Tampa and St. Petersburg, 73 percent of those surveyed said they liked their neighborhoods. Some 62 percent (in Tampa) to 64 percent (in St. Pete) said they liked their neighbors. When they travel, 74 percent (in St. Pete) to 71 percent (in Tampa) said they were proud to tell others where they lived. While two-thirds of local residents moved to the area from elsewhere, 69 percent (in St. Pete) to 65 percent (in Tampa) felt that they belonged here.
More than half of area residents cross the Tampa Bay bridges to the neighboring community once a month or less, and about one in five say they rarely or never cross the Bay – a stay-close-to-home focus that local residents sometimes jokingly attribute to fear of mythical “bridge trolls” under the Bay bridges.
Interestingly, Johnson noted, the more frequently people crossed between Tampa and St. Pete, the more easily they made friends and engaged in activities. “Those who most love living here see Tampa Bay as one community and treat it as such,” Johnson said.
The survey showed:
• 53 percent of respondents who crossed the Bay daily or weekly agreed that it was it was easy to make friends and meet people in the region. Only 41 percent of those who rarely crossed the Bay bridges agreed on that point.
• 38 percent of those who crossed the Bay daily or weekly said they were involved in a lot of activities, compared to 19 percent of those who rarely left their city.
• 52 percent of those who ate in local restaurants agreed it was easy to make friends and meet people in the region, compared to 42 percent of those who mostly ate at restaurant chains.
• 36 percent of those who ate at locally owned restaurants said they were engaged in a lot of community activities, compared to 18 percent of those who ate at chain restaurants.
Johnson noted that the survey also reflects opportunities to make Tampa Bay communities better. For example, fewer than half of those surveyed said their community had “many excellent services available to meet my needs” (49 percent in St. Pete and 41 percent in Tampa). Only a third agreed that “people in this area can be trusted” (34 percent in St. Pete and 32 percent in Tampa).
In one sharp difference, St. Pete residents seemed to be more positive about transportation in their community than Tampa residents. Some 64 percent in St. Pete agreed it was easy to get around in the city, compared to 41 percent in Tampa.
Still, Tampa Bay residents are very positive about their community. In fact, nearly eight in 10 respondents said “it would take a lot” to make them move away from the community.
“Think through the policy implications of that,” Johnson said. “Tampa Bay residents aren’t leaving – they will live out their lives here. Community leaders on both sides of the bay should focus attention on how to make this a great place to live at any age. Issues such as getting where you need to go, making friends or connecting with others tend to get worse as people grow older.”
One solution, Johnson said, would be for Tampa and St. Petersburg to join the AARP-WHO Age-Friendly Network of Communities, a group of cities, counties and regions that have joined together to share data, best practices and resources to make their communities more livable for people of all ages.
For more information on the survey, go to www.aarp.org/tampabay or call the media contact information on this news release.
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AARP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, with a membership of nearly 38 million, that helps people turn their goals and dreams into real possibilities, strengthens communities and fights for the issues that matter most to families such as healthcare, employment and income security, retirement planning, affordable utilities and protection from financial abuse. We advocate for individuals in the marketplace by selecting products and services of high quality and value to carry the AARP name as well as help our members obtain discounts on a wide range of products, travel, and services. A trusted source for lifestyle tips, news and educational information, AARP produces AARP The Magazine, the world's largest circulation magazine; AARP Bulletin; www.aarp.org; AARP TV & Radio; AARP Books; and AARP en Español, a Spanish-language website addressing the interests and needs of Hispanics. AARP does not endorse candidates for public office or make contributions to political campaigns or candidates. The AARP Foundation is an affiliated charity that provides security, protection, and empowerment to older persons in need with support from thousands of volunteers, donors, and sponsors. AARP has staffed offices in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Learn more at www.aarp.org.