Reflecting on a Journey for All Ages

Reflecting on a Journey for All Ages

Posted on January 31, 2023 by The Patterson Foundation
Connecting the Suncoast with far-reaching networks is a key strategy in The Patterson Foundation's approach to philanthropy. Millions worldwide are actively working toward many of the same aspirations held in our region. Tapping into their knowledge and best practices — while sharing our own — creates new opportunities to strengthen people, organizations, and communities invested in the future here and beyond.

Sarasota's growing momentum in its journey toward an age-friendly future inspired The Patterson Foundation to catalyze local efforts to explore and embrace optimizations to help people of all ages live active, engaged, and healthy lives. In 2015, The Patterson Foundation worked with collaborators from multiple sectors to help Sarasota become the first community in Florida to join the World Health Organization's (WHO) Global Network of Age-Friendly Cities and Communities, an effort of more than 1,400 member cities and communities committed to creating an age-friendly future for more than 300 million people around the world.

Upon joining the movement, Age-Friendly Sarasota embarked on a deep research effort to understand residents' aspirations for a community where they could live well at any age. Age-Friendly Sarasota partners took this effort into the community to start conversations around the age-friendly concept, which focused on the 8 Domains of Livability identified by WHO as the key physical and social elements influencing our well-being. Throughout the process, Age-Friendly Sarasota tapped into the brain capital of the global movement, bringing renowned thought leaders in age-friendly practices to our community to share their knowledge and learnings.

While all communities in the global network are required to conduct this research, The Patterson Foundation helped Age-Friendly Sarasota go above and beyond, pioneering innovations that other communities around the world could model in their own journey:
  • In collaboration with AARP Florida, The Patterson Foundation convened leaders from communities across the Sunshine State with the interest and desire to help their own residents chart an age-friendly future. The Sharing Symposium that took place has since been repeated over several years with hosts across the state, inspiring more than 40 other communities in Florida to follow Sarasota's lead and join the global network.

  • Presented by The Patterson Foundation in 2017, the Age-Friendly Festival was the nation's first community celebration focusing on lifelong well-being while connecting people of all ages. As a gift to the community, The Patterson Foundation provided free admission to attendees and no fees for the 125 participating organizations. The festival featured informative exhibits, interactive experiences, educational sessions, and entertainment for all ages to advance the age-friendly movement.
These community connections culminated in the development of Sarasota's first Age-Friendly Action Plan, a blueprint to help our community navigate the future, focusing on optimizations that promote lifelong well-being. With this milestone, Age-Friendly Sarasota entered a new phase of continued exploration into the community's evolving aspirations and opportunities for innovations in healthy aging.

This iterative approach is essential to the initiative's ability to authentically reflect the vision and dreams of the people who live, work, and play in Sarasota. It also creates opportunities for entities from multiple sectors to take on an advanced leadership role in the initiative by applying the learnings and processes previously catalyzed through The Patterson Foundation's support.

Sarasota County Government, a longtime Age-Friendly Sarasota partner, stepped up to lead the initiative in 2019. In the years since, it has been the driving force behind the creation of new age-friendly resources and advancements.

Under its guidance, Age-Friendly Sarasota developed a Five-Year Progress Report in 2020, which documented the cumulative efforts of its first half-decade and shared them in a toolkit applicable locally and in other age-friendly communities. Most recently, Sarasota County Government directed the creation of an updated Age-Friendly Sarasota Action Plan in 2022 utilizing multiple resources, including community data, multiple surveys, focus groups, and input from community partners.

The leadership demonstrated by Sarasota County government affirms our region's commitment to creating a community for all ages — and sharing that community's learnings across the world. While The Patterson Foundation's engagement in Age-Friendly Sarasota has concluded, the connections it catalyzed continue to fuel the initiative's local efforts and strengthen them through membership in the global network. Through Sarasota County Government's guidance and collaboration across sectors, Age-Friendly Sarasota has established itself as a powerful long-term initiative to help our community turn its aspirations into realities.

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