Enhancing community health with age-friendly principles

Enhancing community health with age-friendly principles

Posted on January 26, 2016 by Kathy Black

Age-Friendly Sarasota (AFS) is pleased to serve in an advisory capacity to the Community Health Improvement Partnership (CHIP). Established in 2002, CHIP represents a vehicle to develop ideas and action for creating a healthier community and a brighter future for all. Aligned by the same collaborative tenets of Age-Friendly Sarasota, CHIP brings together committed volunteers, organizations and businesses with the vision that their combined efforts can improve health and quality of life in Sarasota County and beyond. In addition, both CHIP and AFS recognize the multi-faceted levels of health including the individual AND broader social and built environment in which we live.

The issue of mental health among older adults illustrates the intersection of the individual and one’s broader social environment AND the efforts of both CHIP and AFS. CHIP recently released its 2015 report, which identified an increase in poor mental health among people age 65 and older (6.8% in 2013) – representing an 8.4% trending increase over the past five years. Among this age group, primary mental health concerns include depression, anxiety, and dementia. These health maladies are serious health concerns that greatly impact the quality of life among our friends, family, and neighbors.

While CHIP is charged with identifying such gaps or needs among our populace, AFS focuses its efforts on primary interventions or preventative approaches to the root causes of such issues afflicting people as they age. For example, AFS just completed its initial baseline-phase assessment of residents' assets and aspirations. A strengths approach underlies AFS efforts that inquired about  people's desires in eight domains of life. The work is premised on holistic health promotion - living fully and thriving throughout one's life! This approach preempts poor mental health by addressing its root causes – such as lack of cognitive stimulation, isolation at home, and disrespect or social exclusion faced in society.

We have just completed our baseline assessment and are currently analyzing our findings. Next AFS will build upon our initial work to help build the assets and aspirations of our residents and community. We look forward to building a collective future that builds upon our strengths, and counters the negative aspects of growing older that many can experience when communities don’t recognize, respond to AND prevent issues that can impact all of us. We must all work together for the collective benefit of our entire community. Good mental health among people of all ages is good for everyone!

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