Older-adult (male) enjoying the reflection lounge

Reflecting on an Age-Friendly Sarasota at the Age-Friendly Festival: Part 2

Posted on December 20, 2017 by Linda Albert
As Age-Friendly Sarasota (AFS) shared previously, Sarasota recently became the first Age-Friendly community in North America to host an Age-Friendly Festival. At the festival’s Age-Friendly Sarasota booth, visitors were informed about the community’s Age-Friendly journey and the resulting three-year Action Plan that focuses on increasing area resources and opportunities based on the eight Domains of Livability.

These domains, identified by the World Health Organization (WHO), have been shown to enhance health and the quality of life:
At the Age-Friendly Festival, attendees were invited to share their thoughts about what makes a community Age-Friendly. Reflection Lounges were available throughout the Age-Friendly Festival. The lounges were designed to provide a place where participants could relax in comfortable furniture generously provided by the Charlotte County Habitat for Humanity ReSale Stores and engage in conversation. Guides in each lounge posed questions and facilitated discussions about what makes a community Age-Friendly; responses were immediately posted. Here are just a few topics and comments:

Affordable Housing is needed, and not only for older adults, but #ForAllAges. Suggestions included “tiny home communities, cooperatives, and the rejuvenation of old motels as artist’s spaces." Others felt more low-income housing “like the Jefferson Center” and "housing for people who don’t have resources” was needed. It was noted that “Universal Design could be far more ‘universal’ in our community.”

Transportation likewise topped the list of Age-Friendly community features. The “sooner we get to autonomous vehicles the better.” “More education on roundabouts is needed” (and indeed, an interactive roundabout educational experience was provided by Sarasota County Government at the Festival). Other aspirations included reducing the age for free local bus rides, low-cost bus passes, expanding bus services east of I-75, north to southbound shuttles and trolley services, and increased availability of valet services.

App-based options are available, but as one respondent noted, "not for those without a smartphone, which I can’t afford.” Several transportation operators participated in the Age-Friendly Festival, but some visitors I spoke with were unaware of these options. While each option considered individually would not suit all needs, it raised the question of community awareness of transportation options in general.

Health and Well-being and Work & Play topics resulted in shared aspirations for more affordable age-friendly exercise programs, better biking and walking trails, wider sidewalks to accommodate wheelchairs and scooters, and exchanges for medical equipment. Also, intergenerational possibilities were shared: “increased interaction between the youth and elderly,” "buying an older relative a tablet and teaching them how to use it,” educating younger adults on how to “prepare for their aging parents,” “how to engage/connect with people of other ages,” and "increasing intergenerational collaboration and opportunities."

An example of a local intergenerational collaboration was applauded: “Ringling students working with the elderly at the Friendship Center is fabulous!”

What does Age-Friendly community engagement mean to you and how can each of us make our community Age-Friendly? According to respondents, it might be as simple as “waving at a passerby,” "going out of your way to help your neighbor,” and "encouraging neighbors to have fun together” through community activities such as block parties, barbeques and ice cream socials, activities that are “not age-restricted.” Others suggested supporting “small or large community projects” that would allow residents to collectively participate in efforts such as planting trees or “creating a community park.” Reflecting on the events of the day, one respondent enthusiastically noted that they were “amazed by how much we already do.”

The Community Engagement Lounge had faith-based community nurses doing blood pressure monitoring and talking with attendees about their volunteer work in the community. They demonstrate that retirement means more than staying at home; it means using your time and talent to help your community every day.

Sarasota is an age-friendly community, and looking forward, the more we learn, share, and experience, the more we engage with family, friends, and neighbors, the closer we’ll move toward a community that will benefit generations to come.

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