AARP welcomes Carbondale into age friendly network |

AARP welcomes Carbondale into age friendly network

A 10-month-old group of elderly activists entered a new phase Thursday.

Carbondale was inducted into the AARP’s network of age-friendly communities at the Third Street Center in a ceremony that attracted more than 100 seniors and other community members.

AARP Colorado president Bob Murphy said the event, which featured booths of businesses, nursing homes, and food from local vendors, was unlike any of the previous ceremonies he’s been to.

“We have never seen anything like this for an age-friendly community certificate,” Murphy said.

Typically, the presentation is done at a town meeting with little fanfare.

“To see an amazing turn-out like this is really heartwarming, and I think it bodes well for the sort of work that needs to be done to carry out the age-friendly planning and execution,” Murphy said.

The event was a milestone for the Carbondale Age-Friendly Community Initiative, which formed in early 2019 with an idea and a meeting with the mayor.

Ron Kokish and Niki Delson approached Carbondale Mayor Dan Richardson at his traditional Tuesday morning hang-out at the Village Smithy with an idea to make the town more accessible to senior residents.

The pair attracted others, and in January, Carbondale’s age-friendly initiative was born.

Now that Carbondale is part of AARP’s network, it will have resources to begin a 1-2 year process of identifying what needs to be changed to make the town more accessible to seniors.

The point of the AARP network is to bring policymakers, senior citizens and others to “work together to plan their community through an age-friendly lens,” Murphy said.

The hallmarks of an age-friendly community, according to the AARP, are accessible outdoor spaces, good transportation, affordable housing, respect and inclusion of seniors, civic participation and employment, communication and information, community and health services for seniors.

Colorado has the third-fastest aging population in the country, and the population of people over 65 years of age is expected to increase by 60 percent over the next 10 years, according to the Greater Roaring Fork Regional Housing Study, released in April.

In 2018, the whole state joined the age-friendly network, but individual communities, including Eagle and Pitkin counties, have also signed up to participate.

The AARP has ranked communities across the country, and Carbondale scored 57 out of 100. But anything above 50 is doing pretty well, Murphy said.

Mayor Richardson wanted to set a goal for improvement.

“I say we shoot for 65 next year. How’s that?” Richardson said in his remarks.

As part of the age-friendly network, Carbondale is also eligible to apply for around $1 million in AARP community grants for individual projects.

The next step in the process is to conduct a needs assessment, which the age-friendly initiative group is already working on. And it’s not just seniors who benefit, according to Murphy.

“You eventually are building a community that is friendly to people of all ages. If you remove barriers for someone who is 80 years old, you’re removing barriers for someone who is 8 years old.”

The idea is to age in place in a community you call home, and be able to stay near friends,” Murphy said.

Around 80 percent of Coloradans want to grow old where they live, Murphy said.

“This program facilitates them being able to do that.”

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