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Generations agree: Communities need to do more to be age-friendly

By GRETCHEN M. GROSKY
New Hampshire Union Leader

June 05. 2017 7:14PM
AARP NH State Director Todd Fahey addresses the Southern New Hampshire Planning Commission forum at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College last week. (GRETCHEN GROSKY/UNION LEADER)

There aren’t many differences between what a 70-year-old and a 28-year-old wants from a community.

A recent survey of New Hampshire’s generations about their communities showed many similarities between the two biggest demographics — the baby boomers, aged 53 to 71, and millennials, aged 20 to 36.

According to the survey, both generations want one-floor living in affordable homes near places they can shop, hang out, recreate and have fun. They want places to walk. They want public transportation. They want to work and make a decent wage.

The majority also believed their communities were failing to meet their needs.

The Southern New Hampshire Planning Commission presented the findings to 150 community leaders at the New Hampshire Institute for Politics at St. Anselm College last week. The goal of the meeting was to show the importance of making communities more age-friendly while providing ideas on how to do it.

Do nothing and risk an older population without a younger one to support it, panelists warned at the Wednesday forum.

“We can’t prescribe our way out of the problem,” said Barbara Salvatore, co-chair of EngAGING NH, a group promoting public policies, citizen leadership and involvement with the state’s aging population. “We all need to work together to have multidisciplinary, holistic communities that support all of us.”

Nathan Miller, a principal planner for the commission, pointed to one risk area — transportation. He called it one of the biggest community disconnects. With New Hampshire’s rural areas and lack of public transit, older people rely on themselves or volunteer networks to get around.

If younger people leave for higher-paying jobs in communities with more affordable housing, where will those volunteers come from to help the older generations get to doctor’s appointments or the grocery store? he asked.

“The volunteer pool is shrinking,” Miller said.

Transportation is one of many areas the planning commission is looking at as part of its two-year program to build a toolkit to help communities become more age-friendly, an idea first promoted by the World Health Organization and now adopted by AARP.

It focuses on eight “domains of livability” which make communities attractive, accessible and functional for a person of any age. It encompasses housing, transportation, social participation, outdoor space and buildings, respect and social inclusion, civic participation and employment, communication and community and health services.

SNHPC’s Deputy Director Sylvia von Aulock is spearheading the two-year effort. She said the next step is for communities to get onboard and start implementing age-friendly programs.

“We want you all to become age-friendly,” she said to the group. “We want to move ahead.”

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Silver Linings is a continuing Union Leader/Sunday news report focusing on the issues of New Hampshire’s aging population and seeking out solutions. Union Leader reporter Gretchen Grosky would like to hear from readers about issues related to aging. She can be reached at ggrosky@unionleader.com or (603) 206-7739. See more at www.unionleader.com/aging


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