City Seeks Input towards Obtaining AARP Age-Friendly Designation

Monday, February 26, 2018, 10:46 am
By: 
Christopher A. Wardell

The City of East Lansing is seeking input from citizens as they work on becoming an AARP Age-Friendly city, and they need your help.

In the fall of 2017, the AARP conducted a telephone survey to gain input from East Lansing residents to see how the City measured up, and now the City is set to hold a week full of focus groups where East Lansing residents are encouraged to show up and voice their opinions on how to make East Lansing a better place to live for senior citizens.

East Lansing’s Age-Friendly Community Committee, comprised of residents and City of East Lansing staff, began meeting in January of 2017 to look at ways to plan, implement, and assess ways to achieve the AARP designation, hoping to become the fifth city in Michigan to do so. To help with these efforts, the City is working with the World Health Organization and the AARP.

 

The focus groups will take place starting Monday, March 5 beginning with Social Participation from 10:00 AM until Noon, followed by a group centered on Communication and Information on the same day from 3:00 PM to 5:00 PM. On March 6, the focus group will shine a light on Transportation from 3: 00 PM to 5:30 PM.

The topic of Housing and Livability will be taken up on March 7 from 6:00 PM 7:30 PM, and on March 8the group will take a look at Community Support and Health Services from 10:00 AM until Noon. The last focus group will take place on March 12, with a discussion on Outdoor Spaces and Buildings from 10 - Noon.

All of the focus groups will take place at the East Lansing Hannah Community Center.

In doing so, East Lansing is working with the two organizations to make sure the following is offered to citizens:

  1. Safe and accessible public transportation options.
  2. Affordable and accessible safe housing.
  3. Safe parks and outdoor spaces.
  4. Quality community and health services.
  5. Employment and volunteer opportunities.
  6. Social activities and events for people of all ages.

 

“Well-designed, livable communities promote health and sustain economic growth, which makes for happier and healthier residents,” said East Lansing’s Prime Time Seniors’ Program Director Kelly Arndt. “With the data collected, it helps the City respond to the needs of our residents and develop a three-year community-wide action plan based on assessment finds.”

According to AARP’s website, the program launched in 2006 to help, “with the rapidly aging population and the parallel trend of urbanization.” There are currently 212 communities participating in the program. Lansing joined the network in 2015. The age-friendly designation means a city has committed to improving factors such as transportation, public spaces, health services and social inclusion for people of all ages, according to guidelines established by the World Health Organization.

Arndt is excited about the focus groups, and said interest is already spiking.

“One of the eight focus groups--Social Participation--is totally booked at this time and Housing is almost booked,” she said. “We have a very engaged senior population, and are expecting a great turnout in all of the eight focus groups.”

One member of the City’s Seniors Commission, Dr. James Levande, is also looking forward to the focus groups, and is anxious to see what the outcomes of the groups will be.

Dr. Levande is quick to point out East Lansing is not necessarily lacking in quality community services or resources, but he does see areas for improvement, housing, being one of them.

“Senior housing is an issue.” Dr. Levande said. “Affordable housing for seniors is in short supply. Part of the issue is the ability to down-size. Many seniors, like myself, live in a home that they have owned for 30 or more years. These homes, based upon current market values, cannot generate enough money to afford a smaller home, apartment, or condominium within the City. Current development in the City is attempting to alleviate a shortage of senior housing. It is unclear that this new development will produce units that will be affordable for many seniors.”

All of the eight focus groups are of interest to Dr. Levande, and he is planning on leading the group that helps to address Civic Participation and Employment on March 8.

Now retired, the 79-year-old spent 45 years as an educator in Indiana and East Lansing, and was a lecturer at both MSU and Eastern Michigan. Dr. Levande was also the technological literacy consultant to the Michigan Departments of Education, Career Development, and Labor and Economic Growth.

Dr. Levande thinks the City is on the right track in trying to achieve the Age-Friendly designation.

“I believe that East Lansing's efforts to achieve recognition as an age-friendly community will help to highlight the community's strengths and to improve the quality-of-life for all citizens, especially the people who have lived many years in the community,” he said.

Citizens interested in participating in one of the focus groups should contact the East Lansing Prime Time Seniors’ Program at: (517) 337-1113.

 

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