WINSTON-SALEM -- In November, AARP North Carolina confered with local elected officials, city planners, research, housing, transportation and health experts, and others to examine the aspects of "age-friendly" communities.
At Reaching Across NC: Livable Community Connections a statewide conference on “Age-Friendly" Communities, the cities, counties, towns and rural areas working on age-friendly designations, and others wanting to become better places for all ages, shared strategies and best practices when it comes to making needed improvements all across the state.
According to Danielle Arigoni, director of AARP Livable Communities initiatives, "American communities are on the precipice of enormous change, but it isn't a change that should catch anyone by surprise.
We are all, of course, aging. And right now, approximately 45 million Americans are age 65 or older. By 2030, that number will reach 73 million Americans. At that point, fully one in five Americans will be older than 65."
When preparing for this change, Arigoni stresses that an "age-freindly" agenda is not about the old. "Making improvements in areas including transportation, housing, health care, the use of open spaces and others benefits everyone regardless of age,"she said.
At the conference, some of the state's leading community planning experts, implementers and advocates learned more about the latest trends, research, projects and opportunities that enhance the quality of life for residents of all ages.
Today, there are over 3.5 million North Carolina residents living in areas that have already joined the AARP Network of Age-Friendly Communities. Improvements are being made when it comes to transportation, health care and the use of public spaces. Over the past two years, AARP has also provided grants to ten North Carolina communities to help spark quick improvements such as the building of and enhancement of parks, walking trails, and programs serving communities of all sizes.
While the state's urban areas have been quick to join the AARP Network of Age-Friendly Communities, more focus is needed in rural communities, where small changes can result in great impact.
Chairwoman of the Lenoir County Commissioners Linda Rouse Sutton said, "Even in rural areas, we can develop places that can have sidewalks, where people can have access to healthy foods, and where residents can live a healthier life."
Housing consultant Dan Curry of Durham said, "When it comes to affordable housing, many of the best ideas come from the community -- whether it is places of worshop, community centers, neighborhood organizations or others."
Curry, like most conference participants, stressed the importance of collaborating for success.
Alderman Lora Sharkey of the City of Southport said that when it came to a demonstration project to improve the walkability of downtown, the city could not have done it alone. "AARP, the YWCA, the state department of transportation and others were important partners since this was an undertaking a small staff could not do on its own."
With over 125 leaders participating in the conference, most seemed eager to collaborate for greater success. AARP North Carolina Director Michael Olender said, “AARP is not only a resource to bring people together to work on common goals, the AARP Network of Age-Friendly Communities has the research, information, ideas and support, to help communities become their greatest.”
This story is provided by AARP North Carolina. Visit the AARP North Carolina page for more news, events, and programs affecting retirement, health care, and more.
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