Behind the scenes over the past two years, local community leaders gathered to pursue an Age-Friendly City and Livable Community designation for the City of Columbia, the first city in the state to do so.
Age-friendly or livable communities have walkable streets, housing and transportation options, access to key services and opportunities for residents to participate in community activities.
The AARP Network of Age-Friendly States and Communities encourages states, cities, towns and counties to prepare for the rapid aging of the U.S. population by paying increased attention to the environmental, economic and social factors that influence the health and well-being of older adults. Last month, local leaders received word from the World Health Organization (WHO) that their efforts had gained momentum.
“The City of Columbia is recognized as a member to the World Health Organization’s Global Network for Age-Friendly Cities and Communities,” said Dr. John Beard, its Director of the Department of Ageing and Life Course. “As a member, City of Columbia will be part of a growing global movement of communities, cities and other sub-national levels of government that are striving to better meet the needs of their older residents.”
“We aspire to create in Columbia the most talented, educated and entrepreneurial city in America, and creating a more livable city for all residents is – without question – part of that,” said Mayor Steve Benjamin. “Our citizens in every age group continue to contribute so much to our city and cities across the nation. Ensuring that we can adapt to fit the needs of all of our residents in building smarter, more livable communities is a high priority.”
Beard goes on to say that by joining the Network, City of Columbia commits to sharing and promoting the values and principles central to the WHO age-friendly approach; implementing the four steps to create age-friendly local environments, and actively participating in the Network including the sharing of experiences with other members.
The World Health Organization's Global Network of Age-Friendly Cities and Communities has identified eight areas of livability that influence the quality of life of older adults. These domains are also used as a framework and starting point by the U.S.-based towns, cities and counties that belong to the AARP Network of Age-Friendly Communities.
Columbia’s Age-Friendly Livable Community Advisory Council is led by community leaders who each represent one of the eight domains of livability.
Housing: Kevin Wimberly, President, SC UpLift Community Outreach
Transportation: John Andoh, Executive Director, Central Midlands RTA/COMET
Respect and Social Inclusion: Vickie Moody, CEO, President, LeadingAge SC
Outdoor Spaces and Buildings: Lucinda Statler, AICP, Principal Planner/Urban Design, Planning and Development Services, City of Columbia
Communication and Information: Laura Ros, Project Manager, Engenuity SC (What’s Next Midlands)
Social Participation: Joelle Ryan-Cook, Deputy Director, Columbia Museum of Art
Community and Health Services: Scott Middleton, President, LTC Health Solutions/Agape Hospice
Civic Participation and Employment: Lisa Marie Field, Spectrum Reach/AARP State Volunteer
AARP Representatives, both state and national liaisons, provide additional support to the Advisory Council including:
Teresa Arnold, AARP South Carolina, State Director
Liz Norris, AARP South Carolina, Past State President
Wallace Cunningham, AARP South Carolina, Associate State Director Multicultural Leadership
Bill Armbruster, AARP National Lead Advisor on Age-Friendly Cities & Communities
Mike Watson, AARP National Liaison for Mayoral Group Focus Cities
Early in 2018, Mayor Steve Benjamin supported and presented the Advisory Council’s request to pursue this designation for the City of Columbia. City Council unanimously approved the application to be presented to the World Health Organization.
Now the work begins. The goal is to create barrier-free living experiences for citizens of the City of Columbia from eight to eighty years of age. A survey will be distributed this fall to local residents to measure experiences within the eight domains of livability. The results of this survey will prioritize the projects and action plans to come.
The Advisory Council invites those interested in participating on future projects and/or committees to contact the AARP state office at email@example.com, 803-765-7381.
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