Making age-friendly housing a priority; Miami Valley Age-Friendly Network established

By Haylee Pence

[email protected]

MIAMI VALLEY — The Miami Valley Regional Planning Commission has created the Miami Valley Age-Friendly Network (MVAFN), which is headed by Del Mar Encore Fellow Leigh Sempeles.

The MVAFN is “a coalition of communities, partners, and stakeholders who are committed to making needed changes in our communities to ensure that we can all live better as we age,” according to Stacy Schweikhart, director of Strategy and Engagement.

This project is funded by the Del Mar Fund at the Dayton Foundation.

“The population of the United States is rapidly aging,” said Sempeles. “According to AARP, by 2030, one of every five people in the U.S. will be 65 or older and by 2035 (and) the number of adults older than 65 will be greater than the number of children under 18 and for the first time ever — the U.S. will be a country comprised of more older adults than children.”

According to Sempeles, the Miami Valley region is starting to see this shift in population dynamic.

“Our communities need to prepare for the rapid aging of the U.S. population by paying increased attention to environmental, economic, and social factors that influence the health and well-being of older adults,” stated Sempeles.

According to AARP, there are eight domains that impact livability, which include community support and health services, communication and information, civic participation and employment, respect and social inclusion, social participation, housing, transportation, and outdoor spaces and buildings.

Below are general strategies MVRPC shared for counties and communities to get involved in the age-friendly initiative:

• Learn more about age-friendly communities by attending quarterly MVAFN meetings;

• Assess existing conditions, programs, policies, and services by implementing surveys or assessments of your community;

• Re-frame aging, changing the narrative by changing the language around aging and education the importance of older adults;

• Engage older adults in decision-making processes by bringing older adults to join decision-making councils, advisory boards, etc.;

• Work together on strategic partnerships, programs, and plans to make your community or organization more age-friendly; and,

• Commit to becoming a designated age-friendly community by joining the national Network of Age-Friendly States and Communities through AARP/WHO.

“This spring, 10 MVRPC member agencies will each be awarded a $10,000 grant from the Del Mar Fund at the Dayton Foundation to pursue a multi-year planning effort focused on recognizing and enhancing age-friendly, livable aspects of their communities,” said MVRPC Executive Director Brian O. Martin. “Funds will be allocated for a community survey and accompanying listening sessions/focus groups as well as critical research, data analysis, and technical assistance to create an action plan for age-friendly, livable community initiatives.”

The Miami County Commissioners recently heard a presentation about this project from Sempeles to discuss Miami County participating in this initiative and applying for the grant. The commissioners decided to hear more to make a decision.