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Age Inclusive Living Senior Citizens and Youngsters Creating Harmonious Neighborhoods

 
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Trinh Thai
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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.

What would an age-inclusive community look like?

Let’s begin with a couple of questions that will help us examine how to get the most from an age-inclusive community.

  • what sort of services would need to be available to make the space as inclusive as possible?
  • how could residents of all ages be able to live together and enjoy their common spaces to their maximum?

We’re going to take these ideas and explore them more fully throughout this piece.

What is age-inclusive living?

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.

Age Inclusive

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 Eight Domains of Livability

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.

Social Participation

  • Housing: The right housing and support can allow everyone to live safely, in their community. Decent quality housing is essential for good health and mental wellbeing, and it can also help keep up good social relationships and prevent loneliness. Housing solutions and drop in sessions can be offered to those struggling to find accommodation and support.
  • Outdoor spaces and buildings: Your outside environment and public buildings impact the mobility of many citizens young and old, thus in an age-inclusive community they should be made safe, accessible, and comfortable for people of all ages. Ideas include creating a map of benches, toilets or ramps in a public area, ensuring there are spaces to rest when people are out and even undertaking walking audits to identify additional needs on pavements and crossings.
  • Social Participation: Participating in activities in the community is important for health and wellbeing and to help form good relationships, without these people can feel isolated and lonely. Schemes like men’s groups, where they can come together to learn DIY skills or sewing circles for young and old can offer therapy and support.
  • Transport: Ensuring transport is affordable, reliable, and clean so that everyone can get out and about when they need to for socializing, shopping, or to health care appointments. Additional factors like cards for people to carry which let drivers know if they need extra assistance are important, as is ensuring those who use bicycles have access to safe cycle lanes and special classes to help them cycle better.
  • Respect and Social Inclusion: An age-inclusive community enables people of all backgrounds to actively come together and show mutual respect and regard for their shared existence and their life experience.
  • Work and Civic Engagement: Age-inclusive communities look to provide good-quality employment options for people in later life to continue to contribute. These can be paid or on a voluntary basis but not only give good life skills but offer a sense of hope and give people the feeling that they’re positively contributing to life, whatever their age or ability.
  • Communication and Information: Staying connected to people and community events, and getting information is important for all of us, especially as we get age. Age-inclusive communities seek to ensure information is accessible for those with varying resources and abilities – for example, people who don't have English as a first language, who might not have access to the internet, or who have healing or sight impairments.
  • Community and Health Services: As people live longer lives, the need for community support and health services increases. Alongside affordable health care, there is a recognized need for extra community support so that people can live supported lives in their own community for as long as possible.

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.

How can a community get started on becoming age-inclusive?

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.

How to assess your age-inclusive community

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.

Local Strength

  • local strengths - what can you all achieve by working together?
  • opportunities - what opportunities can arise from an age-inclusive community?
  • barriers - what potential barriers are there to achieving success?

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.

An age-inclusive community action plan

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

  • transportation
  • housing
  • recreation

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:

  • Letter of support from local decision-making body
  • Authority to develop the plan from said body
  • A community profile that lists all the age-inclusive living assessment outcomes
  • Information about everyone involved in the process and how it will progress
  • Action plan categories
  • How the plan will be prioritized
  • Who will be accountable?
  • Funding

This provides the framework for everyone involved to act on the findings of the initial assessments and community engagement.

Framework

From here you can see real change develop over time, such as:

  • building better transport infrastructure
  • setting up transport schemes
  • making sure that local areas are safe and secure
  • providing better community centers and libraries

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.

Acting on the age-inclusive action plan

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.

Monitoring and evaluation of your age-inclusive community

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.

Trinh Thai

Legal Director | Founder

Trinh is a compassionate conveyancing lawyer who handles her clients with genuine care — yes, all of the LEAD team wants to help but Trinh's eagerness to help is on a galactically higher pedestal! Aside from that, her knowledge of residential conveyancing in the several States of Australia is top-notch. She can easily hop from state to state like a kangaroo.

Click here to learn more about Trinh

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