Join the ‘Age Friendly’ Movement
The Age Friendly Seattle 2019 Annual Report is hot off the press, and well worth review. If you’re not familiar with the “age friendly” movement, the City of Seattle joined the AARP Network of Age-Friendly States and Communities in 2016 and launched its Age Friendly Seattle initiative the following year.
After reading the report, I’m convinced that suburban cities in King County would do well to join the movement. Much of Age Friendly Seattle’s work is replicable, and the Age Friendly Coalition for Seattle and King County as well as Age Friendly Seattle and other Aging and Disability Services staff are ready and willing to provide technical assistance to suburban cities. Statewide, AARP Washington leads this movement, and provides connections to subject matter experts across the country. We also have allies in Puyallup and Tacoma—both members of the network. Nationwide, AARP Livable Communities and AARP Research are wonderful resources.
Age Friendly Seattle’s report, like their Action Plan and action plans adopted by more than 440 communities across the country, is organized around the World Health Organization’s 8 Domains of Livability. As examples, following is a list of one accomplishment (among many) in each domain:
- Transportation—Street Design Toolkit for Age-Friendly Neighborhoods: Kudos to the Seattle Department of Transportation for producing age-friendly design standards and providing tips for private developers, capital project managers, policy makers, and community members on improving streetscapes and pedestrian mobility for all ages.
- Housing—Moving Toward Age-Friendly Housing in King County: Every municipality in King County should read this report, which was commissioned by Aging and Disability Services and community partners in 2017 and published in 2018. There’s a housing crisis in this region, and we all have a part to play in finding solutions.
- Outdoor Spaces & Buildings—Northwest Universal Design Council: Members of our Advisory Council have been active in the Universal Design Council since it was founded over a decade ago. With Age Friendly Seattle staff support, they have coordinated outstanding forums that focus on Universal Design principles—particularly accessibility and equity.
- Social Participation—Age Friendly Seattle Civic Coffee Hours: Age Friendly Seattle re-branded a coffee hour program to emphasize social and civic participation, and found ways to expand learning opportunities to English language learners using simple technology like simultaneous translation equipment and digital technology like video and live-streaming.
- Respect & Social Inclusion—Dementia awareness: Age Friendly Seattle staff participate in a number of programs that collaborate to raise community awareness, including the UW Medicine and Brain Wellness Center Community Education Advisory Group, the Frye Art Museum Creative Aging Programs Advisory Committee, the African American Elders Program, and Momentia Seattle, as well as coordination of Memory Sunday and Legacy of Love—an annual conference for African American family caregivers that focuses on dementia care.
- Civic Participation—Age Friendly Business: Age Friendly Seattle teamed up with four University of Washington Information School seniors who developed an Age Friendly Business website last year. There are self-assessments for employers as well as organizations that provide customer service. And it’s tied to a newly rebranded Gold Card for Healthy Aging, the FLASH Card for younger adults with qualifying disabilities, and a new online discount directory.
- Community & Health Services—Coordinated Response to Abuse, Neglect, and Exploitation: Age Friendly Seattle has helped get the word out about Aging and Disability Services (ADS) elder abuse prevention. ADS collaborates with first responders—fire departments, Emergency Medical Services, law enforcement, Adult Protective Services, and the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office to support victims and vulnerable adults. (This year, ADS case managers also started riding with Seattle Fire Department’s Health One mobile unit, and they are saving lives.)
- Communication & Information—Community Guide to Accessible Events & Meetings: Age Friendly Seattle published this helpful booklet and checklists to help event planners, program managers, and others understand how to make events and meetings welcoming and inclusive of all ages and abilities.
Join me in encouraging suburban cities and unincorporated communities in King County to join the Age Friendly movement. Feel free to share the link to this article and, for more information, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org and/or email@example.com.
Contributor Ava Frisinger chairs the Seattle-King County Advisory Council on Aging & Disability Services, which publishes AgeWise King County. She welcomes input from readers via e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org) as well as applicants for open positions on the council. For more information, visit www.agingkingcounty.org/advisory-council.
This article originally appeared in the March issue of AgeWise King County.