Building Age-Friendly Communities
As Americans live longer and healthier lives, we are choosing to live independently in community settings for as long as possible. This presents opportunities for communities to tap into older adults as a resource, but also challenges that require innovative solutions.
Since 2000, The HealthPath Foundation of Ohio’s Prevention of Family Violence initiative has helped lay the groundwork for enhancing services and resources to prevent all forms of family violence in our 36-county service area. Because elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation are common but often overlooked, HealthPath has chosen to focus on supporting age-friendly communities so that older people can live their lives to the fullest, participate in our communities, and live free from abuse, neglect, and exploitation.
Age-friendly communities are designed to keep people connected to their communities at all stages of life, which plays a role in preventing elder abuse by increasing awareness, reducing social isolation, and supporting caregivers. Elder abuse is about as common as falls that require emergency care and new diagnoses of cancer. The Ohio Family Violence Prevention Project estimates that more than 105,000 Ohio older adults are abused or neglected each year, but very few reports are filed. To help ensure that older adults can live and participate in our communities to their fullest potential, free from abuse, neglect, and exploitation, HealthPath has selected Age-Friendly Communities as one of our result areas.
What Makes a Community Age-Friendly
Age-friendly communities are places where the physical and social environments are intentionally designed to support and enable older people to live in security, enjoy good health, and continue to participate fully in society. This includes adopting policies, services, and infrastructure related to transportation, housing, food systems, outdoor spaces and buildings, health and community services, and other domains that make a community more livable for people of all ages, and especially older adults. Curb cuts, or the ramps built into sidewalks at intersections, are one example of an age-friendly solution. These ramps allow people in wheelchairs or who have limited mobility to cross a street more easily. They also benefit people pushing strollers, workers pulling carts, travelers with luggage, and runners and rollerbladers.
Besides supporting older adults, age-friendly communities also support their unpaid caregivers, such as adult children, siblings, or other family members or friends. These caregivers are often balancing the demands of a job and their own families with those of caring for an older adult. Age-friendly communities make it easier by creating resources and solutions with older adults in mind.
While the World Health Organization (WHO) and the AARP both have official age-friendly networks, communities can work toward being age-friendly without joining a formal network.
What HealthPath Will Fund?
To help ensure that older adults can live and participate in our communities to their fullest potential, free from abuse, neglect, and exploitation, HealthPath is offering funding through three initiatives: Workforce Development, Direct Service, and Community Connections.