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Milbank is SD's Newest "Age-Friendly" Community

The historic 1880s Grist Mlll in Milbank, S.D., was completely reconstructed in 2009. (Flickr)
The historic 1880s Grist Mlll in Milbank, S.D., was completely reconstructed in 2009. (Flickr)
January 31, 2020

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. - In 10 years, one in five Americans will be 65 or older - and urban or rural, they want a livable community. The town of Milbank in northeast South Dakota is eager to be one of those places.

Milbank is inducted into the AARP network of "Age Friendly" communities today, joining Sioux Falls and more than 300 others nationwide that have committed to providing amenities that make their community more inclusive and accessible for all ages.

Rachel Sherard, a senior vice president with Avera Health - which has a facility in Milbank - says it's important that age-friendly towns are able to sustain themselves in the future.

"That they're places where people want to raise their families, have productive lives and retire," says Sherard. "And so, the whole livable community fits very well with Avera's mission."

"Age-friendly" communities are defined as equally good places to live for an eight-year-old and an 80-year-old - with transportation services, affordable housing and opportunities for social life.

Access to quality health care is also a critical component of an age-friendly city, and Sherard says telemedicine services make that possible in a state with so many small, rural towns.

"Rural is still very important to South Dakota," says Sherard. "With 800,000 people rural, it's still very important. So the stronger your core is, the stronger the whole is. So, you can't have too many strong, livable communities."

According to Leah Ganschow, associate state director of communications and outreach for AARP South Dakota, Milbank - with a population of about 3,500 - is typical of South Dakota communities. Residents want to retain personal independence by living in their own home throughout their lives, while also engaging in local civic life.

"We define rural communities in very specific ways in our country," says Ganschow. "We talk about rural communities by population. We talk about them by income and economic activity. And that's really not what a community is to 99% of us. We're not 'economic activity' - we are community."

AARP encourages South Dakota towns and cities to apply for grants starting next week to fund livable projects - including those related to housing, transportation, smart cities and public space.

Disclosure: AARP South Dakota contributes to our fund for reporting on Health Issues, Senior Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Roz Brown, Public News Service - SD