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Michigan Communities Challenged to Improve Livability

Bessemer used grant money from the AARP Community Challenge to install bike racks around the town designed by a local artist. (City of Bessemer)
Bessemer used grant money from the AARP Community Challenge to install bike racks around the town designed by a local artist. (City of Bessemer)
May 9, 2018

LANSING, Mich. – With the nation facing an aging population, many communities are examining ways to become places where people of all ages can thrive.

And cities and towns in Michigan ready to roll up their sleeves and get to work on livability projects have an opportunity to get some financial help.

Mark Hornbeck, associate state director for communications with AARP Michigan, explains the AARP Community Challenge is offering grants for innovative improvement ideas that will allow all residents to make the most out of where they live.

"When we talk about livable communities we talk about not only older adults but cutting across all age groups, from the couple who goes across the street with a stroller all the way to an older adult who might need to use a walker or a wheelchair," he states.

Projects are wanted that help create vibrant public places, improve transportation and mobility and support affordable, accessible housing.

Projects must be completed by Nov. 5, and applications are due by May 16.

This is the second year for the challenge, and in 2017, two Michigan communities were among the 88 winners, including the city of Wayne. That's where community development director Lori Gouin says an underutilized alleyway was transformed into a community gathering space.

"It provided an area for seniors to gather for health related classes, which was great,” she states. “You know we're grateful to organizations like AARP that invest in communities to help them thrive and survive."

Bessemer also received grant money, which City Manager Charly Loper says was used on a project to encourage more bike riding.

"We were able to have these beautiful bicycle racks done by a local artist scattered throughout our town which really makes us a much more biking friendly community," she explains.

Hornbeck adds the challenge aims to inspire communities to improve the quality of life for people of all ages, while keeping in mind shifting demographics.

"There'll be a greater percentage of folks that are 55 and older in the immediate future and so when housing projects, transportation projects are designed they need to take into account these changing demographics," he stresses.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - MI