For the past several years, AARP has been supporting U.S. communities to meet the WHO’s Age-Friendly Communities Initiative via their Livable Communities/Age-Friendly Communities program. There are countless resources available on the AARP website to support communities interested in developing and implementing an Age-Friendly plan. In addition, AARP representatives in each state can provide guidance and information at the local level.
APA + AARP
On Monday April 20, AARP unveiled the latest resource for developing Age-Friendly Communities: the Livability Index. This event occurred at the American Planning Association (APA) National Conference. Whit Blanton, member of APA Board of Directors, explained that this represented a growing relationship between the two organizations, and followed last year’s release of APA’s first ever Aging in Community Policy Guide. This guide was written by a host of volunteers, led by Jennifer Raitt and Ramona Mullahey with crucial coordination and support by APA staff. I served on the task force and co-authored the sections on Zoning, Housing, and Transportation.
Purpose of the Index
Debra Whitman, Chief Public Policy Officer for the AARP Public Policy Institute provided the rationale for and introduction to the Livability Index. Dr. Whitman explained that members of the APA are the perfect audience for utilizing this tool. Because 1 in 5 Americans will be age 65 and over by 2030, communities must be preparing to provide services, built environment features, and policies which support and enable this diverse population.
The Livability Index was the idea of Rodney Harrell, Director of Livable Communities for AARP’s Public Policy Institute, who appeared pleased at the audience’s positive reactions to the fact that index will provide a livability rating for a community down to the census block level. According to Whitman, the “Age-Friendly Communities model is a tool [for communities] to listen to older adults and to work collaboratively with government and business.” That said, the new Livability Index allows municipal leaders, businesses, agencies, and consumers to delve deeper into what age-friendly assets are present in their communities, and where they can work to improve. I am looking forward to exploring this tool as I work with communities on their Age-Friendly Communities plans, as well as hearing from planners and other colleagues about their experiences with this resource.