By David Krogh
Not many people are aware that Portland belongs to the AARP’s Livable Community Network of Age-Friendly Communities and States or what that means. Currently 573 communities nationwide and eight states belong to this network.
The program says “elected leadership of these participants have made the commitment to actively work toward making their town, city, county or state a great place to live for people of all ages.”
Although AARP to most seems kind of like the AAA of older folks, it also engages with communities to improve or provide services and facilities.
The Livable Communities program prides itself in their statement that people aged 50 and older have the ability “to enhance communities through their skills, life lessons, influence and involvement.” Much of this support provided by elders is done free of charge via their volunteer efforts.
Last month, in a virtual conference entitled Engaging Older Adults: Why it’s Good for the Community AARP explained how it works with different groups (non-profits, neighborhood, businesses and government) to encourage and support local projects of importance to the community.
Speakers from a wide variety of public and non-profit groups presented information about how they work together to solve a variety of locally-oriented problems seniors face in areas such as mobility, safety and communication.
Examples of many collaborative programs that could be initiated in Portland were showcased.
Example presented from several large US cities. The Idaho Walk Bike Alliance worked with state traffic engineers to include the slower walking speed of seniors in crosswalk timing as a safety measure.
The City of Macon, GA worked with community groups in the development of their new main city park resulting in the provision of a community center in the park to serve all age groups.
The Florida Department of Elder Affairs was able to provide tablets for virtual communications to 300 senior living facilities to help improve family communications during the pandemic.
Hopelink, a community action agency in Bellevue, Washington developed a program to assist elderly, refugee and migrant communities with transportation needs.
AARP in all of this was either a partner, information source or a grant provider. In fact, within the last three years, the group has awarded $3.6 million in challenge grants to communities or organizations across the country among 376 projects.
Since 2017 no less than 16 projects in 11 cities in Oregon have received several thousands of dollars in AARP grants.
In Portland, the following projects/programs were beneficiaries:
• Asian Health and Service Center – Providing support for older adults facing language and cultural barriers by expanding the work of a Response Team offering culturally-specific resources for mental health, food security and more.
• Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon, Metro HomeShare Program – A program to ensure that Oregonians can be reached and assisted during the coronavirus pandemic by developing new digital and remote outreach for low-income homeowners or renters.
• Verde – Supporting Verde’s Mobile Home Repair program by funding up to eight home repairs for older adults, families with children and residents with disabilities. Repairs are intended to address critical health, safety and livability issues impacting low-income residents.
• APANO Communities United Fund – Engaging elders in the Jade District, teaching them to use technology to increase their mobility and connecting them with community resources.
• Alberta Main Street – Promoting the Summer of Alberta program for low-income housing districts and other often-overlooked individuals in order to increase cultural activities for children and expand their access to fun outdoor experiences.
• City of Portland, Bureau of Planning and Sustainability (Age-Friendly City Program) – To better integrate residents of all ages, races and abilities, by using grant funds to launch an Age-Friendly Civilian Corps, a business ambassador program and a variety of other community programs. This program is currently underway and can be accessed at portland.gov/bps/age-friendly-city.
• EngAGE NW – To help create an outdoor area for residents at Cascadian Terrace that is accessible, sustainable and connects across generations, race and ethnicity.
• Cascadia Action – Providing for Breath of Life to engage and mobilize diverse communities for Clean Air volunteer groups within North and East Portland.
• Opal Environmental Justice – To support the Lift Every Voice Transportation Storytelling Project to collect stories of those in need within the area. The stories will be mapped and shared.
Many information materials and webinars of AARP Livable Communities are free to the public and can be accessed at aarp.org/livable-communities. Community challenge grant information is provided at aarp.org/livable-communities/community-challenge.