In an age-friendly community, residents benefit from an environment that encourages them to remain active and socially engaged. By adopting features like safe, walkable streets, better housing and transportation options and more opportunities for residents to participate in community activities, cities and town can become great places to live for people of all ages.
The AARP Network of Age-Friendly Communities, a national initiative, is designed to support the efforts of neighborhoods, towns and cities to adopt these and other age-friendly practices. Well-designed, livable communities promote health and sustain economic growth, making for happier and healthier residents whether young or old.
In 2016, we saw a remarkable surge in the efforts of Maine towns and neighborhoods to advance age-friendly initiatives. In fact, Maine is leading the country when it comes to the number of NAFC participants, with almost 25 as of this printing. In large part due to the effective partnering taking place, we can share just some of the examples that are already serving as potential models for other Maine communities to follow.
Sometimes age-friendly initiatives begin with just one person noticing a need. Such is the case with Shaw’s supermarket in Augusta. When approached by a resident who was concerned that there was no bench at the nearby bus stop, the store manager immediately responded. He recognized that for an older or physically challenged person, having to stand and wait for a bus could be quite a challenge, particularly in bad weather. The manager agreed to not only put a bench at the bus stop, but he also decided to place one at the back of the store for any shoppers needing to sit and rest.
In an example of a tri-community, age-friendly effort, residents in Bowdoin, Bowdoinham and Richmond have joined together to form The Village Lodge Handy Brigade to provide home repair and maintenance services without charge to older adults who live in their own homes. The only cost is for the parts needed. All the work is done by volunteers who make it their mission to help people in the community.
It is worth noting that multi-generational mobility is a cornerstone of the age-friendly vision, and Portland, home to the AARP Maine office, is a larger NAFC municipality that is already working to improve the city’s bicycling and walking-friendly infrastructure. Several encouraging initiatives are underway to address the condition of Portland’s roads and sidewalks, which will offer positive changes for residents and visitors of all ages.
As part of our effort to encourage other towns and communities to develop and advance their own age-friendly ideas, AARP Maine developed a free guide, The Maine Guide to Building Age-Friendly Communities. The guide can help citizen activists and municipalities work together to make changes that benefit residents of all ages. Written by local age-friendly experts, the guide can serve as a wonderful resource for communities of any size. To order your free electronic or paper copy, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 207-776-6306.
It is exciting and inspiring to share stories like these that remind us how great a role each of us can play in stimulating positive change in Maine’s towns and neighborhoods. We hope you will follow our Age-Friendly Maine Facebook page (aarpafme) and become a part of our growing team of partners who are working each day to build a better Maine for all generations.
Jane Margesson is the AARP Maine communications director.