People of all ages at the Farmers Market

Aging Masterfully

Posted on August 07, 2017 by Ryan Van Cleave

Editor's Note: Aging Masterfully was originally published by Sarasota Scene.

Let me be honest, I write a lot of articles for Sarasota Scene on a lot of local groups/organizations, but one of my favorites to write about? The Patterson Foundation. The reason why is simple—they do a whole range of amazing, impactful things.
Their mission statement explains it, saying that “The Patterson Foundation strengthens the efforts of people, organizations, and communities by focusing on issues that address common aspirations, foster wide participation, and encourage learning and sharing.” What does that REALLY mean? It means that they are open to supporting good work, quality projects, and useful initiatives of all types.

That’s something that a writer can get excited about because it’s always fresh and exciting. Just like their two current initiatives on aging. Here’s the 411 on those, with a bit of extra help from President and CEO Debra Jacobs and Dr. Kathy Black, Professor of Aging Studies at the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee, who’s also an Initiative Consultant for The Patterson Foundation.

“Age-Friendly Sarasota is a community in which people are able to thrive and strengthen their sense of well-being throughout their lives.” – Debra Jacobs

Sarasota is the first community in Florida to be officially recognized as an “age-friendly community” by the World Health Organization and the AARP, which serves as a national affiliate of the global effort of more than 500 communities worldwide to benefit 155+ million people. To put it succinctly, Age-Friendly Sarasota is a county-wide effort to promote active, engaged, and healthy living for people of all ages.
Jacobs explains this idea further, saying, “Age-Friendly Sarasota is a community in which people are able to thrive and strengthen their sense of well-being throughout their lives. It’s a community featuring assets within its infrastructure, social environment and support services guided by the aspirations of residents. Whether you’re 8 years old or 80, an age-friendly community is designed to promote livability at all phases of life. We each want to live, work and play in ways that resonate with who we are — so exploring possibilities will benefit all ages.”

They recently completed a community action plan that was developed with feedback from nearly 1,200 Sarasota County residents. This plan outlines goals and objectives across several community features to enhance the quality of life for people at any age. Curious about the findings? The entire document is available at

Some of the other actionables include:
• Conducted training on age-friendly park features with staff from Sarasota County government and municipalities (City of Sarasota, North Port, Longboat Key, and Venice)
• Contributed to Florida Studio Theater’s plays and panels on aging
• Collaborated with AARP and Uber on ride-sharing forum
• Aligned efforts with Neighborhood Association Challenge
• Conducted nine focus groups and surveyed all Sarasota County zip codes

Dr. Black notes that “our community and its sectors are united to promote healthy and dignified aging as we are all stakeholders in an aging society.” Some of the partners in the Age-Friendly Sarasota initiative include AARP Florida, the Florida Department of Elder Affairs, the Florida Policy Exchange Center on Aging at the University of South Florida, Sarasota County government, and the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee. Jacobs explains that since Age-Friendly Sarasota’s inception, “The Patterson Foundation has supported this collaboration, developing connections between each entity while scanning for potential connections on the horizon.”

This fall, The Patterson Foundation will present the Age-Friendly Festival to the community on Saturday, October 28 at the Sarasota Fairgrounds. Jacobs explains that the goal of the event is to “highlight the network of business, government, nonprofit, media, and individual advancers throughout Sarasota promoting age-friendly practices and principles that optimize the community’s assets and enhance quality of life for all ages. Attendees will have the opportunity to enjoy exhibits and education opportunities, experiences, and entertainment at no cost.”

This engaging and innovative 10-week education program was developed by the National Council on Aging to help communities create a clear path to strengthen the physical, financial, and emotional wellness of older adults. Initially, the MetLife Foundation funded a pilot program for 225 people in five states—South Carolina, Indiana, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania. Its success record justified an expansion so it’s now available throughout the country and it has the goal of reaching 5 million older adults by 2020.

Local organizations that have been offering the Aging Mastery Program® are listed here:

• Jewish Family and Children’s Service of the Suncoast (Sarasota) 941-366-2224
• Aging in Paradise Resource Center (Longboat Key) 941-383-6493
• Enrichment Center at Renaissance on 9th (Bradenton) 941-749-0100
• The Friendship Centers (Sarasota and Venice) 941-556-3236

Check with these locations when they are offering the class next. There’s a small fee to participate and class size is limited in each location.

Why participate in the program? Because the classes focus on ways that older adults can create their own effective paths for aging well. Jacobs points out that participants of the programs have demonstrated clear increases in their social connectedness, physical activity, healthy eating habits, understanding of preventative benefits, communication with healthcare teams, and use of advanced planning. The agencies running these programs? They’ve been amazed at the change they’ve seen in the participants.

Central to the Aging Mastery Program® is the idea that modest lifestyle changes can produce big results and that people can be empowered and supported to cultivate health and longevity. For those of you who struggle with follow-through, there’s a reward system built in that will help keep you on track!

So this writer says “Thanks!” to The Patterson Foundation for giving me such interesting things to write about. And our community says “Thanks!” to them as well for continuing to keep us all connected, healthy, and learning.

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