As of Friday, more than 100 million people now live in towns, cities, counties or territories that have enrolled in the AARP (American Association of Retired Persons) Network of Age-Friendly States and Communities, and Owensboro-Daviess County has officially joined the ranks as well.
According to Executive Director of the Senior Community Center Dana Peveler, City and County officials have signed an intent to make Owensboro and Daviess County an age-friendly community. According to AARP, this signature of intent means that elected leaders have made commitments to actively work toward making Owensboro and Daviess County a great place to live for all ages.
“Age-friendly communities are inclusive and considerate of the perspectives of all residents of all ages, and all persuasions,” AARP states. “Age-friendly communities encourage and benefit from diverse citizen engagement by including residents in a process to identify the community’s needs, and develop and implement an action plan to address those needs.”
Owensboro-Daviess County joins four other Kentucky cities in becoming age friendly, including Louisville, Lexington, Bowling Green and Berea.
Peveler said she and Green River Area Development District (GRADD) Aging & Social Services Associate Director Jennifer Williams approached Mayor Tom Watson and Daviess County Judge-Executive Al Mattingly about making the area an age-friendly community. Both local leaders responded positively and signed their intents around two months ago, Peveler said.
“I think it’s something that Kentucky is seeing as a need,” Peveler said. “Bowling Green really led the charge in signing first, and then Louisville.”
While the intent to become age friendly has been signed, the process of implementing an action plan and applying that plan to the community’s needs isn’t something that happens overnight, Peveler said.
“You build your committees and determine which of your community members should be on those committees. Then you do a community needs assessment,” Peveler said. “We will set up City Hall meetings to hear ideas and concerns from the community. You’ll bring those ideas back to the group, then form sub-groups, and then you go forward from there.”
AARP has teamed up with the World Health Organization (WHO) in creating this program, designed to make communities across the United States better for people of all ages.
“Everyone — from toddlers to seniors — have some type of needs, whether it be having park benches spaced apart to modifying curbs that make it easier to roll [wheelchairs, walkers or strollers] upon. A housing example would be moms carrying a baby on their hip, who might benefit from the same kind of door handles as a senior with arthritis,” Peveler said.
The age-friendly community action plan can cover a variety of needs, including outdoor spaces and buildings, transportation, community support and health services, civic participation and employment, respect and social inclusion, and housing.
“It really is designed to make communities more livable. Anything that would adapt a community toward being better,” Peveler said. “This isn’t just about seniors — it’s about people all over the spectrum. We want to make our area inclusive and livable for young people, and then we hope to keep them here through their senior years.”