Age-Friendly Efforts Continue in a Year of Uncertainty
While 2020 was a year filled with uncertainty, municipalities and community organizations across Washington state still managed to put older people’s needs front and center. We welcomed two cities—Tacoma and Renton—to the AARP Network of Age-Friendly States and Communities, joining Seattle and Puyallup. Several nonprofit agencies also received AARP Community Challenge grants to address crucial pandemic-related issues, such as food insecurity and telehealth.
In February, AARP Washington officially welcomed the City of Tacoma into the AARP Network of Age-Friendly States and Communities. AARP State Director Doug Shadel presented Mayor Victoria Woodards and Council Member Lillian Hunter with an official membership certificate to commemorate Tacoma’s new age-friendly designation. Tacoma has already made strides to ensure their age-friendly efforts encompass voices from all walks of life, and we are excited for their continued work to create a community where people can grow up and grow old with ease.
In October, Renton became the second city in King County to join the national Age Friendly network via a virtual presentation to Mayor Armondo Pavone. Renton is completing an internal assessment of policies that relate to age-friendly domains like housing, transportation, outdoor spaces, and social issues like respect and inclusion. They are also evaluating the results of a citywide survey of older adults, assessing how the city currently meets residents’ needs. Survey results will help guide future policies to make Renton neighborhoods safe and walkable and support health, well-being, and participation for residents of all ages.
Puyallup took a giant leap forward by receiving city council, AARP, and World Health Organization approval for their three-year action plan to make the city a place where people of all ages can thrive. Building on these efforts, the community also received funds this year to create an “Elder-Friendly Business” designation for participating area businesses committed to older customers’ service and accessibility needs.
Seattle is well on its way to completing its age-friendly action plan. Previous planning and coordinated service methods helped tremendously as the pandemic first gripped Washington state. Many of our age-friendly communities were hard-pressed to develop creative solutions to aid older residents. Nowhere was this more prevalent than the initial epicenter of the outbreak in east King County.
Food access was one of the most pressing concerns we heard from the community. Fortunately, Aging and Disability Services, the Area Agency on Aging for Seattle and King County, has a strong food network. Dozens of community meal providers retooled their delivery method to provide takeout and delivery of sack lunches and grocery boxes. In addition to food distribution, vulnerable adults also received information about resources via Community Living Connections and programs that combat social isolation, like AARP Friendly Voices and Washington Listens.
Building on efforts to reduce food insecurity, Olympia’s Garden-Raised Bounty (GRuB) received a grant to build 150 gardens for lower-income Thurston County residents, including some in active-adult communities. Military veterans are doing the building, and the new gardeners will get needed supplies to cultivate produce.
As virtual doctor visits became more prevalent, International Community Health Services in Seattle submitted and received a grant to develop video tutorials about telehealth in multiple languages so that older Washingtonians know how to connect with medical providers.
2020 tested our mettle and our communities and partners stepped up to the plate and fought to keep older adults safe and informed throughout the year. Visit AARP Washington to learn more about age-friendly efforts across the state. If you are curious about how livable your neighborhood is, check out our online Livability Index. Finally, don’t forget to sign up for the weekly Livable Communities e-newsletter to see what communities across the nation are doing to ensure that all of us can thrive in community, no matter our life stage.
Contributor Christina Clem is a communications specialist with AARP Washington. Read her article “We May Be Isolated, But We Don’t Have to Be Alone” in the June 2020 issue of AgeWise King County.
This article originally appeared in the January 2021 issue of AgeWise King County.