A growing movement in Michigan 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 include Auburn Hills, Lansing, East Lansing, Grand Rapids, Highland Park, Southfield and Royal Oak. Those communities 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. 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. 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. (JK)
Public News Service assisted with this story.