Macon-Bibb to keep AARP age-friendly label

jgaines@macon.comJuly 16, 2014 

Macon-Bibb County’s designation as the nation’s first “age-friendly community,” announced in 2012, is being renewed for another three years, Georgia AARP officials said Wednesday.

The joint designation from AARP and the World Health Organization is being reaffirmed because those groups liked what they saw in the action plan that the local 28-member advisory council worked on for a year, said Karen Cooper, AARP’s associate state director for outreach in Georgia.

Formal word on the renewal has come from AARP, and informal confirmation from WHO, said Myrtle Habersham, an AARP Georgia executive council member. Written endorsement from WHO is expected soon.

The advisory council met Wednesday to talk about its next steps toward implementation.

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.

The work plan calls for the area to include age-friendly features in a wide range of planning and projects. To that end, Macon-Bibb Recreation Director Dale “Doc” Dougherty was named liaison between the group and Mayor Robert Rei- chert’s office.

While the advisory council is getting age-friendly changes started, it’ll be up to the community to put them into effect, Dougherty said. The local parks and recreation departments, already making many improvements with special purpose sales tax proceeds, are among the agencies that could install the most age-friendly features, he said.

“We have an aging community, and clearly our parks and facilities from the ‘60s and ‘70s are not adequate (for that demographic shift),” Dougherty said.

General trends in parks and recreation are toward greater access for seniors and the disabled, with programs and facilities promoting not just youth sports but lifelong health and wellness, he said.

Parks that host frequent public events could get scooter charging stations and more benches, among other things, Dougherty said.

Sam Henderson, executive assistant to the mayor, said Reichert has already been asking about establishing as special “age friendly” routes some lower-traffic streets that parallel major thoroughfares. The chosen streets would have lower speed limits, greater traffic enforcement, even sidewalks wide enough for golf carts and scooters.

“The city is in the process of trying to accomplish some of the things that this group is working on,” he said.

This came in the wake of one or two groups examining how to market Macon as a possible retirement destination.

National Night Out

This year’s National Night Out will be Aug. 5, with an 11 a.m. kickoff at Terminal Station and events in many neighborhoods from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., said Judy Gordon, Neighborhood Watch coordinator for the Bibb County Sheriff’s Office.

There are about 60 active Neighborhood Watch groups in various neighborhoods, and another 50 email-only groups sharing information. She also coordinates Business Watch groups and the Triad program, a collaboration between police and people older than 50, Gordon said.

To join or start organizing any of those groups, contact her at 478-803-2711 or jgordon@maconbibb.us.

Technology workshops

AARP is going to offer free workshops for people age 50 and older on how to use smartphones and tablet computers. Four days are scheduled so far -- with two sessions each day -- and one more will be set up soon, probably in September at Carlyle Place, 5300 Zebulon Road, Cooper said.

Each session needs 50 participants signed up. Tablet computers will be available for people to practice on during the two-hour sessions, along with a free take-home guidebook.

McAfee Towers, 1212 Gray Highway, will host sessions at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. on July 30 and Aug. 13.

Pearl Stephens Senior Citizen Center, 3321 Napier Ave., will hold workshops at 10 a.m and 2 p.m. Oct. 15.

And Buck Melton Community Center, 150 Sessions Drive, will host them at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Nov. 19.

To sign up for the workshops, call 877-926-8300 or go to aarp.cvent.com/aarp tekgeorgia.

To contact writer Jim Gaines, call 744-4489.

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