AARP group: young can share benefit of age-friendliness

Transportation, recreation and housing issues affect all

jgaines@macon.comSeptember 10, 2013 

In publicizing Macon-Bibb County as an “Age-Friendly Community,” its proponents need to stress what’s good for older residents is attractive to younger adults and children too, members of an AARP work group said Tuesday.

For nearly a year, volunteer members of the work group have been putting together a plan to make Macon-Bibb more “age-friendly.” In August 2012 the city and county was the first in the United States to get such a designation by AARP and the World Health Organization, but a work plan to make that label a reality must be approved by the World Health Organization by April 2014.

The idea of age-friendliness ought to become “one of the first things that pops into your head” when Macon is mentioned, said Karen Cooper, AARP associate state director for outreach in Georgia.

That will require sharing lots of information, not only publicizing the program but also getting participating agencies to update each other on what they each offer seniors, Cooper said.

Courtney Verdier of the Middle Georgia Regional Commission and Cuirstaun Echols of the Area Agency on Aging are putting the draft plan together, based on the volunteer group’s months of discussion. It will be submitted for initial review in October, Cooper said.

Several members of the work group suggested promoting street-improvement work such as sidewalks and curb cuts as age-friendly features. Katherine Buchman, program specialist for the city Economic & Community Development Department, said program and contact information for each of the agencies involved should be widely advertised.

“I think we need to be talking about this to more than each other,” she said.

City Councilman Frank Tompkins said Macon-Bibb’s efforts ought to be plugged statewide, like a tourist attraction.

In return for the AARP/WHO designation, local governments agreed to work toward better senior-citizen access to several “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. No specific promises of funding were made, but some age-conscious features have already been incorporated into planning, such as a “complete streets” policy to make new and reworked roads accessible for walkers, bicyclists and other traffic.

To contact writer Jim Gaines, call 744-4489.

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