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Innovators, Planners, Top NYS Policymakers Plot ‘Livability’ Improvements at Summit

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Under Gov. Cuomo, NY First State to Join AARP-WHO ‘Age-Friendly Network;’ Summit to Focus on Enhancing Communities for Residents of All Ages

SYRACUSE, N.Y. – Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul kicked off AARP’s “Leading on Livability” Summit today via video as innovators, planners, top state policymakers and other experts from across the state plotted strategies to improve communities across New York for residents of all ages.

The summit focused on building upon Governor Andrew Cuomo’s groundbreaking initiative last year that made New York the first state to join the AARP-World Health Organization Network of Age-Friendly Communities.

At the two-day summit at Syracuse’s Crowne Plaza Hotel, which continues tomorrow, top health, aging and “smart growth” officials from the state, counties, municipalities, academia and the aging advocacy network shared ideas on the best improvements in walkability, community health and other areas the state and interested localities can undertake to ensure New York is a desirable place to live for residents of all ages – including communities of color as part of AARP’s ongoing #DisruptDisparities initiative.

AARP National Board member Neal Lane, a past Director of the New York State Office for the Aging (SOFA), will moderate a panel tomorrow that includes Acting SOFA Director Greg Olsen, New York Department of State Director of Smart Growth Paul Beyer, and Nora OBrien-Suric, President of the Health Foundation for Western and Central New York.

“The Leading on Livability Summit is bringing leaders and innovators together to discuss ideas and develop strategies to advance New York’s age friendly goals,”  said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul. “I’m proud that New York was the first state to achieve the age friendly designation. Together, we’re advancing policies and projects to make New York the healthiest state in the nation and a national leader of livable and sustainable communities, which will benefit people of all ages.”​

In addition to making New York the first state to join the Network of Age-Friendly Communities, Governor Cuomo also created a “Health Across All Policies” initiative to help implement the age-friendly effort.

“As our population ages it’s critical that all our neighborhoods become more age-friendly, and we’re thrilled to be joined by so many partners, potential partners and policymakers from across the state here in Syracuse to continue plotting the course,” said AARP New York State Director Beth Finkel. “Households headed by New Yorkers 50 and older contribute over $700 billion annually to the state’s economy, not to mention the social, cultural and family contributions of older New Yorkers. We can’t afford to lose them. We thank Governor Cuomo for his leadership in making New York the first state in the nation to join the Age-Friendly Network, and we’re excited to find new ways to ensure the state and all its communities become more livable for residents of all ages.”

Already, 18 municipalities across New York, from Elmira to New York City and Erie County to Suffolk County, belong to the six-year-old Network, which works with members on community improvements across eight key areas: outdoor spaces and buildings; transportation; housing; social participation; respect and social inclusion; civic participation and employment; communication and information; and community support and health services.

This year, livability was prioritized in the requests for applications from communities for the New York State Downtown Revitalization Initiative , a centerpiece of Governor Cuomo’s economic development agenda now in its second year. The initiative awards ten grants worth $10 million each through a competitive application process to communities that commit to projects which enhance walkability, streets designed for safe walking and bicycling, sustainable and transit-oriented development.

“Where we live really matters,” David Sandman, President and CEO of the New York State Health Foundation, said in the Summit’s Keynote address. “People living in neighborhoods with easy access to safe and walkable streets, active public spaces, and nutritious food are more likely to have good health outcomes. In communities across New York State, diverse coalitions—health leaders, departments of parks and recreation, businesses, housing authorities, city planners, and residents themselves—are coming together to make neighborhoods healthier and more livable. New York has emerged as a true leader among states.”

“As the first certified age-friendly state in the nation, New York has always been a leader in livable communities, said Nora OBrien-Suric, , Ph.D., President of the Health Foundation for Western and Central New York.  “This Summit provides an invaluable forum for sharing ideas on how to advance livability in conjunction with Health Across All Policies. Livability touches the lives of individuals across the lifespan by thinking about health through a wider lens, and considers the social determinants of health such as transportation, housing and green spaces."

“Collaborating with the AARP will empower grassroots community leaders to eliminate health disparities by addressing the social determinants of health, such as livability, education and financial security,” said Rev. George Nicholas, Senior Pastor of Lincoln Memorial United Methodist Church of Buffalo and a founding member of Concerned Clergy Coalition of WNY, who is scheduled to deliver the Summit’s #DisruptDisparities keynote tomorrow. “We need to invest time and resources into collective problem solving, not isolated activities. By working together we will effect narrative change and system change. Every American has the human right to good health, and a movement is growing to make that ideal a reality.”

The event is AARP New York’s second annual summit on livability. Last year’s was held in April in Albany.

Contact: Erik Kriss, ekriss@aarp.org

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AARP is the nation’s largest nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to empowering Americans 50 and older to choose how they live as they age. With nearly 38 million members and offices in every state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, AARP works to strengthen communities and advocate for what matters most to families with a focus on health security, financial stability and personal fulfillment. AARP also works for individuals in the marketplace by sparking new solutions and allowing carefully chosen, high-quality products and services to carry the AARP name.  As a trusted source for news and information, AARP produces the world’s largest circulation publications, AARP The Magazine and AARP Bulletin. To learn more, visit www.aarp.org or follow @AARP and @AARPadvocates on social media.

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