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Mayor Walsh, Elderly Commission launch Age-friendly Action Plan

May 23, 2017

Elderly Commission

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Elderly Commission

The plan releases 75 action items to improve Boston for older adults. 

Mayor Martin J. Walsh and Boston's Elderly Commission today launched the City's first-ever Age-Friendly Boston Action Plan, the City's blueprint to make Boston the best city and place to live for older adults within three years. The 75 action items in the plan were developed through 25 listening sessions, featuring engagement from over 4,000 older residents throughout Boston. Developed in partnership with AARP, the Tufts Health Plan Foundation and UMass Boston, the plan was released today at the Thelma Burns Building in ABCD Roxbury.

"Older Bostonians are the fastest growing segment of Boston's population, and we're focused on making Boston as friendly and inclusive as possible to residents aging in our City," said Mayor Walsh. "This action plan represents Boston's commitment to working with the community, identifying concerns, and providing real, impactful solutions."

In 2014, Mayor Walsh signed onto the World Health Organization's (WHO) network of Age-Friendly Cities, through their United States partner AARP, and launched the Age-Friendly Boston Initiative. The first phase of the initiative focused on gathering input from older adults about the strengths and weaknesses of growing older in Boston, and this new Action Plan is the result the two year community engagement, data analysis and collaboration process.

Under Mayor Walsh's leadership, the Elderly Commission formed a partnership with UMass Boston Gerontology Institute, supported by a grant from the Tufts Health Plan Foundation, to conduct research based on the guidelines set forth by the WHO. Grounded in community feedback, the plan identifies recommendations and action items the City will take to enhance the quality of life for Boston's older adult residents.

The Age-Friendly Boston Action Plan is organized around eight key life domains, or main concerns, and today's release marks the start of the plan's implementation.

Action Item Highlights Include:

  • Housing
    • Boston residents reported wanting to be able to stay in Boston as they age, in the neighborhoods where they have connections and histories.
    • In conjunction with the City's long-term plan, Imagine Boston 2030, the Age Friendly Boston Action Plan  will focus on programs that promote this including increasing access to tax-relief programs, home repair, and other homeowner support programs; education sessions for renters; and better coordination of services to prevent homelessness.
  • Transportation
    • Boston residents want to be able to travel around the city.
    • Age Friendly Boston Action Plan will work in alignment with Boston's Go Boston 2030 and Vision Zero Plan to create Age-Friendly walking spaces near high concentrations of seniors. This means a focus on improved crosswalk timing and markings, good lighting, places to rest, and sidewalks that are easy to navigate.
  • Outdoor Spaces and Buildings
    • Boston's older residents take pride in and reap important health benefits from the city's outdoor spaces.
    • The Age Friendly Boston Action Plan will make sure that the park redesign planning process is inclusive of older adults, resulting in parks that are good for people of all ages, and lend themselves to community gatherings and events.
  • Community Health and Support Services
    • Social Isolation: According to the AARP Foundation, the health risks associated with prolonged isolation are equal to smoking 15 cigarettes a day. The Elderly Commission will partner with other City departments, organizations, and the faith-based community to find and connect with socially-isolated older adults.  
    • Economic Security: The Age Friendly Boston Action Plan places special focus on public benefits enrollment and retention, and other items that address elder economic security.
    • Dementia: To advance Boston's effort to be a Dementia-Friendly community, this plan also places emphasis on items that address residents with dementia. The Elderly Commission will raise awareness of the disease and its warning signs, and work to connect our residents with resources and support.  
  • Employment and Civic Engagement
    • Boston recognizes the wealth of experience, skills and talent that older adults bring to the City.
    • In Age Friendly Boston Action Plan, the Elderly Commission will work to connect older adults to volunteer opportunities and recognize them for their contributions, and identify and address the barriers to employment for people over 50 in our city.
  • Social Participation
    • Boston is a city that is full of opportunities for engagement, though the plan identified gaps in public knowledge about City programs.
    • To address this, the Elderly Commission will map opportunities for engagement, identify any gaps that may exist in our programming, and work with partners to fill these gaps.
  • Respect and Social Inclusion
    • The Age Friendly Boston Action Plan will partner with Boston Main Streets to train local businesses on Age and Dementia-Friendly business practices, ensuring older Bostonians receive the respect and inclusion they need in the City.
  • Communications and Information
    • The Age Friendly Boston Action Plan found Boston residents want to know how they can get involved, how they can access programs and supports, and how they can bring benefit to, as well as benefit from, all the City has to offer.
    • To become the most Age-Friendly city possible, the Elderly Commission will create a comprehensive strategy to communicate with, and educate and inform older Bostonians.

"We are very proud to have been part of a process that will help Boston adapt to an aging population, a dramatic demographic shift that will affect every city in America in the near future," said Jan Mutchler, Director of the Center for Social and Demographic Research on Aging at UMass Boston. "The city's action plan responds to the needs of the community and will help make Boston a leader in the age-friendly movement."

"This action plan honors the voice of community and the rich diversity of Boston's neighborhoods," said Nora Moreno Cargie, president of Tufts Health Plan Foundation and vice president for corporate citizenship at Tufts Health Plan. "Throughout its process, the City of Boston has been an active listener and envisions communities that are relevant to our changing demographics. Boston will be more accessible, healthier, and age-friendly as the City moves toward implementation of the Plan."

Mike Festa, AARP Massachusetts Director, said, "There is a pressing need to create livable communities for people of all ages. In less than 15 years, one out of every five people in the country will be 65 or older, a demographic shift that will be felt in every community. The City of Boston's Age-Friendly Action Plan can provide a model to inspire even more creativity and sharing of best practices to spur innovation in making all communities great places for people of all ages."

The complete Age-Friendly Boston Action Plan and Fact Sheet is available at: www.boston.gov/age-friendly.

About Age-Friendly Cities

The guiding principle of an Age-Friendly society focuses on designing livable communities that promote good health, strong civic participation and clear communication. That means safe, walkable streets; offering better housing and transportation options; improving access to key services and providing opportunities to be socially engaged. It means sustaining economic growth and enabling happier, healthier residents.

About the Elderly Commission 

The Elderly Commission facilitates full and equal participation in all aspects of life by older adults in Boston. The commission is dedicated to improving the lives of Boston's older adults by connecting them with resources and information, and it is focused on setting the City's direction for successful aging in Boston. Visit boston.gov for more information.