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Advancing Age-Friendly Communities in Michigan

Age-friendly communities are considerate of residents from all walks of life and of any age. (Adobe Stock)
Age-friendly communities are considerate of residents from all walks of life and of any age. (Adobe Stock)
June 24, 2019

LANSING, Mich. – A growing movement in Michigan and around the world is working to ensure communities are able to serve the needs of people of all ages.

Eight cities and towns in the state are members of the AARP Network of Age-Friendly States and Communities. They have committed to creating a place to live that is inclusive and considerate of residents from all walks of life and of any age.

Paula Cunningham, state director of AARP Michigan, says safe, accessible living especially is important for older Michiganders.

"In just six years, by 2025, there will be more people over the age of 65 in Michigan than under the age of 18,” she points out. “And we don't believe that folks are paying enough attention to what's coming in terms of this older population and how prevalent they are going to be throughout not just Michigan but our country and we need to prepare for that."

Cunningham says becoming age-friendly means having walkable streets that are equally safe for a person pushing a baby stroller or using a cane.

Other features include accessible housing and transportation, and outdoor space for community activities, which she notes many cities and towns already are working to improve.

Cunningham says other goals for age-friendly communities are to ensure respect and social inclusion, improved access to health care, and easy ways to access communication and information methods.

"There are a lot of rural communities in Michigan that don't even have access to broadband,” she states. “An age-friendly community would make sure that with tele-health and all the things on the horizon that everyone would have access to the communication and technology that they need."

AARP Michigan, Michigan State University, the Michigan Chamber of Commerce and many lawmakers are encouraging the governor to declare Michigan age-friendly.

Cunningham says the recognition would make Michigan a more attractive place to live.

"You don't want folks leaving your community,” she stresses. “You want everyone to stay in the community as much as possible and age in place and feel comfortable there that they have opportunities and access to the things that make them live the best life that they can possibly live."

Four states, 378 cities and towns, and the U.S. Virgin Islands are part of the AARP Age-Friendly Communities effort.

Disclosure: AARP Michigan contributes to our fund for reporting on Health Issues, Livable Wages/Working Families, Senior Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Mary Schuermann Kuhlman, Public News Service - MI