C-U put on AARP's 'age-friendly' list

C-U put on AARP's 'age-friendly' list

Champaign-Urbana is the second community in Illinois being added to an age-friendly network of places to live.

Age-Friendly Champaign-Urbana, a local group working on the initiative, was notified of acceptance into the AARP Age-Friendly Communities network, according to Wendy Bartlo, a proposal development and community outreach specialist at the University of Illinois Center on Health, Aging and Disability.

The Age-Friendly Communities program was launched by the World Health Organization to help communities prepare for an aging population, and the AARP is the representative for the program in the United States.

Membership in the network means elected leaders have made the commitment to actively work toward making their community a great place for people of all ages, according to AARP. It doesn't mean the community is currently "age-friendly" or a great place to retire.

Champaign-Urbana joined Evanston in Illinois as part of a network of about 150 communities in this network in the United States.

"We're hoping to address the needs of older people in the community and make it a better place to live," Bartlo said.

Defining all those needs is a job still underway, she said. The Champaign-Urbana planning group conducted a survey of 500 people over 50, and the results haven't yet been analyzed by experts.

Once that's done, an action plan will follow, Bartlo said.

"This is really just the beginning of being age-friendly," said Urbana Community Development Director Libby Tyler, who is part of the planning group.

Local officials see the community as already being a great place to age and believe being part of the network will be a chance to make it even more welcoming, Tyler said.

Urbana is already designated a friendly community for bicyclists and pedestrians, and this is a further effort to make it a "very livable community," Mayor Laurel Prussing said.

"We want to be a great community where people can be successful from birth to their golden years," said Ben LeRoy, an associate planner with Champaign who is also working with Age-Friendly Champaign-Urbana.

There's a lot about Champaign-Urbana that makes it a community where people want to stay as they age, and the age-friendly initiative represents a commitment on the part of the community to look at the many ways to make advances, he said.

Tyler and retired University of Illinois administrator Kathleen Holden said the idea for launching an Age-Friendly Community initiative in C-U was originally brought back here from a conference.

Age-friendliness involves addressing all kinds of quality of life issues, according to Holden.

For example, she said, the timing of pedestrian crossing signals at intersections can make a difference in whether older adults can safely get across the street, and the right placement of park benches can allow for adequate rests for an older adult out walking.

Another big consideration is the impact of isolation on older adults and creating more social opportunities, Holden said.

"As we get older, our world shrinks in terms of people we know," she said.

Still other issues to look at are transportation, since many older adults no longer drive, housing and health care, she said.

One initiative already in action by Age-Friendly Champaign-Urbana has been partnering with local agencies to offer a series of pop-up events around the community called "Connections Cafe."

They include free coffee, free tech support for cellphones and hand-held devices, free blood pressure checks and a chance to learn something new about community resources and wellness opportunities.

Aging in America

1 in 3: How many Americans are over 50 years old.

2030: The year that 1 out of 5 people in the United States is projected to be age 65 or older.

87%: The percentage of people 65-plus who want to stay in their current homes and communities as they age.

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pattsi wrote on March 17, 2017 at 8:03 am

If the group is looking for suggestions to pop this community to the top of the age-friendly list, please focus on improving outdoor walkabiliy--even sidewalks so one does not trip, lighted sidewalks--people do not have headlights as do cars, safety to cross barrier streets, and improve connectivity via buses so all transfers do not have to happen at the transportation center, which causes using the bus for tripping excruciatingly longer than necessary.