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Seattle Joins List of Age-Friendly Communities

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Wednesday, August 31, 2016   

SEATTLE - Seattle is being officially recognized as an "Age-Friendly" city today, joining more than 100 communities around the world.

Over the next five years, Seattle will invest in projects aimed at making the city safer for seniors, such as widening sidewalks, providing better and more affordable housing options and making transportation more accessible.

Maureen Linehan, Seattle's director of aging and disabilities services, said social withdrawal becomes an issue for people when getting around the city becomes a challenge.

"It's really easy to self-isolate, and then older adults have a high rate of depression," she said. "So, that mobility, the social inclusion are really critical pieces of the work."

Inclusion in AARP's Network of Age-Friendly Communities will improve on the city's current efforts to help older residents. The city already invests more than $30 million in senior centers, Medicaid case management and programs to prevent elder abuse.

Like many communities across the country, Seattle is seeing a shift in demographics. By 2030, close to one in five King County residents is expected to be age 65 or older. Doug Shadel, AARP Washington state director, said the city is committing itself to planning for this change.

"It's a five-year commitment," he said. "There are markers of what are your commitments, are you implementing them, and then at the end, evaluating - did we actually do these things? So, they're really holding their feet to the fire about coming up with a plan, implementing that plan and then seeing whether it worked."

Linehan said Seattle officials have looked at successful models from other cities in the network, including Portland, Ore.; Washington, D.C.; and New York City. After New York City joined the Age-Friendly Network, she said, it found that pedestrian fatalities were high among seniors.

"And so, they did an initiative," she said. "They decreased the speed limit throughout all of Manhattan; they did a lot of work on intersections and pedestrian walkways, and then a lot of working around lighting on intersections and things like that. And they decreased their older-adult pedestrian fatalities."

Seattle is the second community in Washington state to join AARP's network. Puyallup joined the network in March.

Information on the Network of Age-Friendly Communities is online at aarp.org.


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