How can Summit County be more suitable for seniors?
Some of the possible ideas the county has been thinking about include a âsenior-friendly seal of approvalâ for businesses, service providers, transit options and public spaces, as well as a renovation program and county-wide habitat maintenance.
But the county wants to hear from residents on more ideas as it works to become an AARP age-friendly community.
According to a needs assessment by Cleveland’s non-partisan think tank, The Center for Community Solutions, from 2014 to 2018, there were more than 209,000 adults aged 50 and over in Summit County, including 68,000 in Akron. . They currently represent 38.6% of the county’s population; this number is expected to increase to 39.5% by 2030.
Nationally, the AARP said the U.S. population is aging rapidly. By 2030, 1 in 5 people will be 65 or older, and by 2035, the number of adults over 65 will exceed the number of children under 18.
“Now is the time to plan, not 10 years from now,” said Sarah Bongiorno of Planning NEXT, the Columbus-based company the county is working with on the project. “We want to start planning now so that our communities can be as livable as possible for everyone and so they can age in place and then continue to be active participants in their communities.”
Here’s how to share suggestions
There are three ways for people to contribute until the end of October: a public virtual meeting from noon to 1 p.m. on October 28 via Zoom (bit.ly/3lCRDvf), an online survey at bit.ly/3va6GzR, and small group meetings,
To download a meeting kit for a small group meeting of six to eight people virtually or in person, visit planning-next.com/summit-county-onthetable or pick one up in downtown Akron, Springfield -Lakemore, Fairlawn-Bath, Green, Mogadore, Nordonia Hills, Norton, Portage Lakes, Richfield or Tallmadge Akron-Summit County Public Library Locations.
âThrough this engagement process, we are trying to reach out and hear from people from all corners and corners of the county so that we can make sure we scale this plan and make sure we hear from people,â he said. declared Bongiorno.
Why is Summit County becoming an age-friendly community?
Summit County Director Ilene Shapiro announced during the 2019 County State Address that the county will join communities across the country to become an AARP age-friendly community. The county was accepted into the AARP Network of Age-Friendly States and Communities in January 2020.
The network was established in 2012 as an independent affiliate of the World Health Organization‘s Global Network for Age-Friendly Cities and Communities, an international effort launched in 2006.
The city of Akron joined the network in 2019.
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AARP staff and volunteers work with communities; share resources, support and expertise; and provide technical assistance to network members, currently in 573 communities across the country.
âMembership in the AARP network of age-friendly states and communities does not mean that AARP endorses any of the following municipalities as a place to live. It also does not mean that the listed community or state is currently “age-friendly,” the AARP website states. âWhat membership means is that elected community leaders are committed to actively working to make their city, town, county or state a great place to live for them. people of all ages. “
The AARP said people of all ages benefit from the adoption of policies and programs that make neighborhoods walkable, provide transportation options, allow access to key services, provide opportunities to participate in community activities and support affordable and adaptable housing.
âBy working together, we can ensure that people of all ages can live, enjoy life and thrive in our community,â said Helen Humphrys, co-chair of the Summit County Age-Friendly Advisory Council. âWell-designed age-friendly communities promote economic growth and make residents happier and healthier of all ages. “
In its request, the county said it wanted to focus on aging at home; financial aid; health as a right; centralized information; physical, mental and economic security; affordable and accessible transportation; and sustainable employment.
Suggestions for making the county more age-friendly based on community surveys in the assessment included better transportation options; more affordable or free events and help with housing issues, including affordability of rent and skilled care facilities; availability of facilities that accept Medicaid and availability of more universal living spaces with little maintenance or accessibility on the first floor.
Other suggestions included better sidewalks, benches for resting in outdoor spaces, a call or registration system for isolated older people, and more specific spaces for older people like centers.
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How is Summit County Becoming an Age-Friendly Community?
To earn the AARP designation for seniors, the county must “demonstrate steps taken to become a place where people of all ages, income levels and abilities can thrive,” according to the county’s website.
After some delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the county is now in the first year of the five-year-old, eight-step senior friendly program process and cycle that requires completing a survey and listening sessions at county-wide, to develop an action and evaluation plan, implement the action plan and evaluate and set new goals.
“The result is an action plan, [with] specific programs, policies and projects that can be implemented in the community to move the community forward with regards to age-friendliness, âBongiorno said.
The process focuses on the eight ‘areas of livability’ of the AARP: outdoor and public spaces, transport, housing, social participation, respect and social inclusion, work and civic engagement, communications and information; and community and health services.
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As part of the process, the county develops a plan with a vision, goal statements for each of the areas and possible actions and collects feedback on them.
Who is on the advisory board?
The Summit County Age-Friendly Advisory Council, which guides the five-year process, includes Presidents Humphrys, a former administrator of the Township of Copley who worked for the township for nearly 40 years and is the current administrator of the Township of Northfield Center, and Susan Sigmon, former senior vice president of long-term services and supports at the Akron Township Regional Agency of Direction Home on Aging and Disability. She retirement at the beginning of the year, but still working on the project for the elderly.
The board also includes the CEO of Summit Metro Parks, Lisa King (outdoor and public spaces); Dawn Distler, CEO of Metro RTA (transport); Akron Cleveland Association of Realtors Vice President of Government Affairs Jamie McMillen (housing); The Town of Cuyahoga Falls Neighborhood Excellence and Downtown Administrator Carrie Snyder (Social Participation); Representative of the third ward of Barberton municipal council and representative of Kiwanis Shorter Griffin (respect and social inclusion); Ted Watko, CEO of VANTAGE Aging (work and civic engagement); Centraide du Sommet and Medina Associate Vice-President of 211 and Housing Tanya Kahl (communications and information); and Summit County Public Health Epidemiology and Data Surveillance Supervisor Elizabeth Foster and Community Health Director Donna Barrett (Community and Health Services).
The advisers are the vice president of community investment of the Akron Community Foundation, John Garofalo and Harvey Sterns, director and principal investigator at the Institute for Life-Span Development and Gerontology at the University of Akron.
âThe more voices we hear, the better,â Sigmon said.
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Contact Beacon Journal reporter Emily Mills at email@example.com and on Twitter @ EmilyMills818.