In an ideal world, everyone could live side by side, regardless of their age without any problems. Think that it can’t be done? Well, it can. With careful thought, planning, and execution an age-inclusive community is something that’s achievable and a joy to live in.
How could a scheme like this work and what solutions are there to make it so? We’re going to tell you all about age-inclusive living and how senior citizens and youngsters can create their own harmonious neighborhoods.
Let’s begin with a couple of questions that will help us examine how to get the most from an age-inclusive community.
We’re going to take these ideas and explore them more fully throughout this piece.
An age-inclusive living community aims to create lots of connections between people from all walks of life, who are of many different ages and also differing abilities. From these connections, strong foundations can be laid that build great future relationships and encourage inter-generational contact to flourish!
Being age-inclusive recognizes that everyone, of every age, has differing needs and abilities, and that regardless of this it’s possible to work together to create something that builds a solid community. Every age-inclusive community will look different, just as every small town wherever you are in the world differs from the next.
How would this work depending on the area you live in? Well, let's start by looking at rural or out-of-the-way areas. In places like these, a community might need to think about organizing more in the way of transport services that can take seniors and less able-bodied younger people to places, if they can’t drive. This could be used for many different purposes, from social activities to accessing health care.
Loneliness might be considered more of an issue in places that are rural, so it’s worth considering setting up a community space for everyone to enjoy, in a local building or green outdoor space, or even making greater use of public services like a local library, setting up initiatives that encourage young and old to socialize together.
Urban communities might need to pay more attention to the safety and security of their streets, ensuring everything is accessible and well-lit (particularly at night) and that there are community centers and shared spaces available for all to meet together.
There may also be a need to ensure greater and better access to employment opportunities - whether that’s paid or voluntary, to give essential experience and social skills to young adults and retired seniors who still want to make a difference in the area they live in.
The AARP has a framework in place for many cities and states across the USA that aims to show how people of all ages can live together in solid, well-functioning communities. They call this their Eight Domains of Livability and in short, it covers the following ideas.
This basic framework is a guideline that many places are now taking to heart to meet the needs of senior citizens and younger people who may have additional needs.
There are lots of ways to make a start on getting a community to be more age-inclusive. One of the first steps to take is to set up a stakeholder group. This group would need to comprise interested residents of all ages, members of local volunteer groups, local government staff, interested local or regional organizations, and philanthropic business owners. The more diverse the group, the better.
Once a stakeholder group has been formed the next step is to take a look at the community and look at what needs to be done to achieve something that is much more age-inclusive.
Take a look at the sort of services that already exist in your area. Who are they for and who do they serve - and who do they NOT serve? Are there services for every single age group and ability? From there come up with an actionable list of ideas.
What is the best way for everyone in the community to receive information? Purely online, via email shots and social networking, or via mail shots, community noticeboards, and real-life meetings?
See what’s being planned in your local area to ascertain what’s potentially coming up, or being planned in terms of services and infrastructure. See if, as a group, you can become involved in making this an age-inclusive process.
Get out into the community and talk to people about what they’d like to see. This will also help a stakeholder group gain more information about local demographics and community needs. Use focus groups and interviews to help gain understanding.
Forge relationships with business partners across the community. Whether these be local government bodies or philanthropic businesses that want to help make a difference, chat to the people in charge and see what you can pull together that will help inform and build an age-inclusive community.
Keep channels of communication consistent (and open). Make sure you’re always in conversation with both residents and stakeholders to ensure that everyone is happy with how ideas and plans are coming along.
If problems arise, or it emerges residents aren’t happy, meet, talk, and discuss to find out how problems can be solved. This communication can be done using different channels, whether it’s online, via social media, or in person - everyone has to have their say and be involved.
Let everyone know the outcomes of any meetings, discussions, focus groups, and meetings with other stakeholders. Everything should be made publicly available to view and for people to respond accordingly.
Your assessment can now start to be turned into a community plan so that an age-inclusive community is one step further to becoming a reality.
Now it’s time to put together a real action plan that sets out the goals, objectives, strategies, and priorities for setting up an age-inclusive community for all. This guide will inform critical areas of community living like
Stakeholders who are involved in the process can use this tool to put together their plan, making sure that anyone and everyone within the community has access to everything they need.
It can be a brief document, but it can also be comprehensive - it really does depend on the community’s size and objectives. However, every action plan needs to have the following in it:
This provides the framework for everyone involved to act on the findings of the initial assessments and community engagement.
From here you can see real change develop over time, such as:
This plan can also make a supplemental case for any projects that might need funding from other organizations or the state itself, for instance, if state and federal transportation programs need to step in and assist with infrastructure.
The next stage is seeing all the plans come to fruition, engaging with the local community, and seeing how everything meshes together and how people respond to the changes.
These things can take time and don’t often happen immediately, but over time steady improvements and plans will take shape and your community should start to feel more cohesive.
The final stage is to keep monitoring progress and to make continual improvements to the plan and the community once it's set up.
An age-inclusive community is one that will evolve all the time and change constantly, so it’s good to keep abreast of what’s going on from the ground up, see what’s working (and what isn’t), and what can be done to make things better as time moves on.
Creating an age-inclusive living community is something that takes thought, consideration, and a lot of planning, but it can be something that brings tremendous joy and pleasure to the lives of everyone who inhabit them.