By John Reinhart
Across the United States, communities are redesigning themselves to be more livable for residents of all ages. One notable example in the Show-Me State is Gladstone’s Hobby Hill Park, which is undergoing a five-acre renovation so that “everybody can jump in and play at once,” said Justin Merkey, the city’s director of Parks, Recreation & Cultural Arts.
The 39-acre park in the northwest corner of Gladstone had been largely undeveloped until now, Merkey said. A dense growth of spindly trees, brush and honeysuckle was removed to make way for the renovation, which consists of three distinct playgrounds (two for children, one for adults), a walking trail and a garden for contemplation.
The renovation is scheduled to be completed this summer, and Merkey predicted that because of its appeal to all generations, it will create a unique attraction in Gladstone and promote a sense of community.
AARP Missouri donated $20,000 to the project. “Cities that offer accessible amenities and services that people of all ages want—such as walkability, cultural enrichment and innovative public spaces like Hobby Hill—are surging,” said Craig Eichelman, AARP Missouri state director.
The contribution, Eichelman said, reflects AARP’s commitment to supporting the efforts of cities, towns, counties and states to provide safe, walkable streets; age-friendly housing and transportation options; access to needed services; and opportunities for residents to participate in community activities.
The Hobby Hill Park project is one of many AARP-backed efforts to encourage the development of livable communities throughout Missouri.
Other actions include:
St. Louis County was the first community in Missouri to become part of the network. The purpose of the program is to educate, encourage and promote communities as they address the rapid aging of our population. The age-friendly program offers a framework that communities can use to evaluate where they are now and guide them as they create and implement a plan for the future.
John Reinhart is a former strategies communications director for AARP.
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