Senior-friendly plan for Macon-Bibb coming soon

AARP group working on details in various areas

jgaines@macon.comJuly 9, 2013 

Something approaching a final work plan for making Macon-Bibb County more “age-friendly” should be ready for an AARP advisory council to review at its Sept. 10 meeting, a key AARP volunteer said Tuesday.

Additionally, a final version, also reviewed by local elected officials, could be released in November, Myrtle Habersham told the advisory council. The group met Tuesday morning at the Middle Georgia Regional Commission to work on details of the plan, which will be sent to the World Health Organization.

In August 2012, Macon-Bibb County became the first place in the country to be dubbed an Age-Friendly Community, a designation made jointly by AARP and the World Health Organization. In return, local governments agreed to work toward better senior-citizen access to eight “domains” -- outdoor spaces and buildings, transportation, housing, social participation, respect and social inclusion, civic participation and employment, communication and information, and community and health services.

A plan to implement age-friendly changes will be sent to WHO, which will decide if the age-friendly designation will be extended for another five years.

The local work is already garnering attention, said Greg Tanner, AARP Georgia executive director. In a month he’ll be “talking about Macon” at a conference in Canada, telling other interested communities about the planning process, he said.

Initial ideas about accessibility and safety already are being incorporated in project designs, such as the city plan to make downtown Second Street a pedestrian-friendly corridor, said Sam Henderson, executive assistant to Mayor Robert Reichert.

The advisory council broke into four groups, as at previous meetings, to discuss further details of the work plan. Many group members focused on getting out the word about existing programs and the advisory council’s plans. They’ll need to work through traditional media, online social media and networks built by existing groups such as the school system, representatives of each group reported.

Involvement of the Bibb County school system -- perhaps by offering internships for volunteer credit -- may be a key piece in the AARP plan, group members said.

Dale “Doc” Dougherty, Bibb County’s Parks & Recreation director who spoke for the facilities and transportation group, admitted the existing senior-citizen center on Adams Street is a “very depressing place.”

A major revision to county senior programs is coming, along with the search for a new building with more amenities, he said.

To contact writer Jim Gaines, call 744-4489.

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