What is an Age-Friendly Community?
America is getting older fast. Data suggests that if an individual reaches 65 years of age, it’s likely the person will live until 85. Americans are having fewer children; people are living longer. Today, 40 million people in the United States are ages 65 and older, and this number is projected to more than double to 89 million by 2050. Yet most cities, towns and regions are not preparing to take advantage of the opportunities — and meet the challenges — presented by a growing number of older adults.
Nationwide efforts to make communities age-friendly take various forms. Often they involve physical environments — from safe outdoor spaces and accessible public transportation to affordable, well-designed housing. Other age-friendly initiatives tackle social needs: creating engaging cultural and outdoor activities, public services, and volunteering options. Each community will focus on their own local challenges. This is now happening in Miami-Dade County. How well Miami-Dade County responds to the aging phenomenon will depend on how well we prepare our communities to do so.
Miami-Dade Age-Friendly Initiative
This initiative was started and made possible by Grantmakers In Aging’s (GIA) Community Agenda: Improving America for All Ages, with funds from the Pfizer Foundation collaborated with local partners to create the Miami-Dade Age-Friendly Initiative. The Initiative is based on the successes, assets, needs and gaps multiple sectors face in creating a metropolitan area that fosters a physical and social environment for older adults of all ages to stay active and healthy with dignity and enjoyment. This initiative is a partnership between several agencies in Miami-Dade County; our lead agencies include AARP, Alliance for Aging, Health Foundation of South Florida, Miami-Dade County, United Way and Urban Health Partnerships.
The Miami-Dade Age-Friendly Initiative began as a result of another Foundation initiative, the Healthy Aging Regional Collaborative Initiative, which enabled more than 38,000 older adults to age strong through evidence-based programs since 2008.
“Research tells us that most people want to grow old in the places that matter most to them, around family and community,” said John Feather, PhD, CEO of Grantmakers In Aging. “But that’s only going to be possible if all of us — regional planners, elected officials, citizen groups, philanthropies and others — start thinking and taking action now to put age-friendly ideas into practice. Supporting age-friendly development is a natural role for local philanthropies because of their unique knowledge of the people and particular needs of their own regions.”
In the first two years, the Initiative worked to make age-friendly revisions to long-term County planning policies affecting land use, community health and design and transportation, improve the safety and ease with which older adults walk to neighborhood amenities such as banks, grocery stores and pharmacies, improve park programming and infrastructure for older adults, increase employment opportunities for older adults, and foster multisectorial leadership and action. Accomplishments include:
- Miami-Dade County Planning staff reviewed and accepted recommended age-friendly changes to the County’s Comprehensive Development Master Plan (CDMP) in the Transportation, Community Health and Design and Land Use elements.
- Age-Friendly CDMP Amendments were unanimously approved by the Board of County Commissioners to be transmitted to the State of Florida for review.
- The County’s Long Range Transportation Plan (Plan 2040) has been modified to include specific objectives, measures and transportation analysis with an increased focus on older adults. The LRTP was approved in October 2014 with inclusion of these modifications.
- The Miami-Dade Transit 10Ahead Transportation Development Plan Steering Committee has been provided with a series of recommendations over the past 12 months related to older adults and the Plan’s goals, objectives and outreach tactics and the process has benefited from an increase in input from older adult residents.
- A toolkit designed to assist state and local governments solicit input from older adults on large-scale public sector transportation projects was developed.
- A marketing campaign was designed and implemented to attract larger numbers of older adults to County parks; increased older adult programming in parks has been offered.
- A County-wide age-friendly park designation process was developed.
- Specific age-friendly capital improvement projects have been identified and added to a list for future funding by Miami-Dade County Parks.
- The Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce, South Florida Workforce, and other local employers have been engaged related to how we as a County can increase employment opportunities for older adults; two “older adult employment” promotional videos have been created and posted on the Web.
- An Age-Friendly Business District was developed in Little Havana where more than 25 businesses within a quarter-mile of the target location have provided purchasing incentives for older adults to walk every Tuesday to their stores.
- The Little Havana Safe Routes to Age in Place Virtual Advisory Committee has been maintained and has provided ongoing input to the Florida State Department of Transportation’s Little Havana Pedestrian Safety Study.
- A Study on Community Leader Attitudes Towards Issues Affecting Older Adults was commissioned and completed by Bendixen & Amandi International.
- The WHO Age-Friendly Community Designation Process was researched and a Miami-Dade County WHO Age-Friendly Community Designation Plan was developed.
- The Miami-Dade County Mayor’s Office has pledged its support for the Miami-Dade Age-Friendly Initiative