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OR State Leaders Tackle How to Make Cities Age-Friendly

Salem, Ore., Mayor Chuck Bennett says his city is planning to make itself more friendly for older Oregonians. (City of Salem)
Salem, Ore., Mayor Chuck Bennett says his city is planning to make itself more friendly for older Oregonians. (City of Salem)
December 9, 2019

PORTLAND, Ore. – AARP is holding a summit Monday to explore how to make cities great places for people of all ages to live.

The Age-Friendly Oregon Summit features leaders from around the state, including Gov. Kate Brown and Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler.

Keynote speaker Gil Penalosa is founder of the Canadian organization 8 80 Cities, working to make cities accessible to people who are ages 8 to 80.

He says we need to stop building cities as if everyone was "30 years old and athletic," noting for example that older people are twice as likely to die in crosswalks as the rest of the population.

"A crosswalk that is good for children and is good for older adults will also be good for 30-year-olds, but not the other way around,” he stresses. “If you build it around the 30-year-old athletic, it might not be good for the 90-year-old."

Penalosa says livability is an urgent issue considering that, every day, 10,000 people turn 65.

The all-day event in Portland also features speaker Danielle Arigoni, director of livable communities for AARP.

Salem Mayor Chuck Bennett is on a summit panel Monday. His city expects to see a 33% increase in folks over age 60 by 2030, which is part of the impetus to develop plans to make the city more age-friendly.

Salem officials have conducted an extensive assessment, speaking with residents to find out what their needs are.

Bennett notes affordable housing that allows people to age in place and robust public transportation are some of the greatest needs - as well as other priorities for older residents.

"The general feeling of inclusion, safety, accessibility to groceries – things like that –are the kinds of things that folks are concerned about, and that we will be looking at as part of our planning process," he states.

Penalosa says parks are another key to age-friendly cities. For the older population, that could mean more paths so that people can go on walks together, socialize and stay physically fit. He also notes that parks can be exclusionary for young children.

"It seems like we are doing parks for children only for when they are 10 or 12, but nothing from 0 to 5 – when 0 to 5 are the most important times in the life of a child," he stresses.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - OR