Age Friendly Grand Rapids

JPG image of age friendly Grand Rapids

Introduction

In 2006, the World Health Organization (WHO) launched Age-Friendly Communities to help cities prepare for the parallel trends of a rapidly aging world population and increasing urbanization.  In 2016 the City of Grand Rapids partnered with AARP, an institutional affiliate of WHO, to pursue and obtain accreditation as an Age-Friendly Community.  The global initiative aspires to:

  • Improve communities
  • Sustain economic growth
  • Make for happier healthier residents of all ages 

The Work of AARP and the City included extensive community engagement and resulted in the draft Grand Rapids Age-Friendly Action Plan. The Action Plan aligns with the City of Grand Rapids values and focuses on Four Domains of Livability with each domain having its own set of Goals and Action Steps.

In 2021, the next steps will include presentation of the Age-Friendly Action Plan and formal adoption by the City Commission.


Four Domains of Livability

Communication

Goals for Improving Communication

  • Create a physical or virtual one-stop resource with a focus on health, housing, transportation, utilities, food, in-home services, and social activities.
  • Develop a multi-faceted communication plan.

Housing

Goals for Improving Housing

  • Increase fair rental practices for seniors.
  • Encourage community discussion and increase marketing of Our City Academy to older adults.
  • Provide relevant information to state level policy makers about the need for housing options and services.

Outdoor Spaces

Goals for Improving Outdoor Spaces

  • Include older adults in walking audits to increase pedestrian safety and access.
  • Improve sidewalks and pedestrian crossings.
  • Focus on winter sidewalk issues (ice/snow).
  • Add benches and plantings to expand pedestrian comfort and enjoyment.
  • Create safety/education/outreach programs and messaging.

Transportation

Goals for Improving Transportation

  • Develop and promote awareness of current and future transportation options and resources.
  • Create and expand programs to address improved customer service and safety issues.
  • Explore partnerships for the development of dedicated routes for older adults.


In 2020 we began implementing these Action Steps. Keep up with the latest news and join us for our events as we strive to make Grand Rapids a more age-friendly community!

Overview

In 2006, the Age-Friendly Communities international effort was launched by the World Health Organization to help cities prepare for the parallel trends of a rapidly aging world population and increasing urbanization. Since 2012 AARP, an institutional affiliate of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Global Network of Age-Friendly Cities and Communities, has led the effort to educate and support cities and communities that are interested in becoming designated as age-friendly communities in the U.S. In 2016, AARP and the City of Grand Rapids began seeking input from diverse stakeholders and taking the steps to seek formal designation for the City. In 2018, after two years of community engagement, the City applied for and was accepted as a member of the AARP Network of Age-Friendly Communities. The engagement efforts have continued in 2019, culminating in this Age-Friendly Grand Rapids Action Plan. Implementation of some of the Action Plan recommendations has already begun and work will continue in perpetuity. Annual reports will be submitted to AARP/WHO to sustain the Age-Friendly designation.


Background

Grand Rapids is the second largest City in Michigan and, to date, one of eight communities in Michigan that has committed to creating a place to live that is inclusive and responsive to the needs of residents of all ages and from all walks of life. In October 2019, Michigan became the fifth state in the country and the first state in the Midwest to partner with AARP/WHO to become an age-friendly state. Michigan is one of the most rapidly aging states in the country. According to AARP the number of Michiganders 60 years and older is growing by 50,000 each year. By 2025, Michigan will be the first state where residents age 65 and older will outnumber those that are 18 and younger – a decade ahead of the national aging projection. This compelling data calls on Grand Rapids and the state of Michigan to become a leader in age-friendly planning and practices.

While age-friendly initiatives around the world may focus on WHO’s eight Domains of Livability, Grand Rapids is currently advancing work in the four domains that are most important to older adult Grand Rapids residents: Communication, Housing, Outdoor Spaces and Transportation. More than 500 older adults from every part of the City participated in Thought Leader meetings, Listening Tour events, bilingual surveys (online and in-person), Advisory, Subcommittee and Task Force meetings to identify the needs, gaps and opportunities that are included in the Action Plan.

It is worth noting that the City hopes to serve as a model for equitable and innovative engagement, particularly around engagement of older adults. The City has made substantial efforts to reach diverse populations with sessions oriented toward LGBTQ seniors, communities of color, homeless older adults and adults living with disabilities. The City also incorporated innovative engagement tools to complement traditional community meetings and surveying. One such tool is a City-designed game called “Grandy Land,” which leads players through the WHO domains and encourages them to consider their application to Grand Rapids. Another innovative engagement strategy resulted in a partnership for a “combined class” with traditional university students and older adults from a senior living community.


Summary

 The City’s thorough engagement of residents and a wide variety of organizations has culminated in an Age-Friendly Action Plan supported by the Mayor, City Commission, City Manager and City Departments. The Plan has been integral to and aligned with, the City’s values of a safe, affordable, engaged, inclusive, equitable and vibrant Grand Rapids for all citizens. The implementation of the Plan will result in each Grand Rapids neighborhood being a place for successful aging.


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United Way 211 Service

United Way 2-1-1 is an easy way to connect with help of all kinds, right in your community. Whoever you are, whatever your needs, 2-1-1 makes it easy to find food, shelter, utility assistance, disaster recovery, childcare, transportation, and more. Just call, text, or search online and they’ll get you connected.

Learn More

Call

211 or 1-800-887-1107

Text

Text your zip code to 898211

Chat Online or Search for Services Near You

www.hwmuw.org/211


Thursday March 18, 2021 from 9:00 am - 1:00 pm

The VIRTUAL 16th Annual Art and Science of Aging Conference & Art Exhibit

Please join us to explore Healthy Aging Now. Registration is FREE and ensures your participation in your preferred sessions. The conference will be hosted on the Whova platform.

Register Now


If you have questions or concerns about our Age-Friendly Grand Rapids initiative, let us know. Our phone number and email address are in the Contact Us section.