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Howard launches Age-Friendly Initiative

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Howard County announced the launch of Age-Friendly Howard County. The county is beginning a three- to five-year plan to join the AARP network of age-friendly states and communities, an affiliate of the World Health Organization (WHO). Achieving this designation requires focused efforts on a “livable” community and making sure that Howard County is a great place to grow older and to grow up. Video of this announcement can be found here and photos can be found here.

“[During] the last 10 years, the average annual growth of our 65-plus population has been nearly five times higher than our overall population and our student population according to Census data. Currently, 21 percent of Howard County residents are over 60 years old and in 25 years, this number will increase to nearly 30 percent,” said Ball. “Building an Age-Friendly Howard County is a long-term effort which will require a new way of working together: collaboration among citizens of all ages, with a great deal of input from older adults; and, businesses, non-profit organizations, government agencies, civic organizations, faith-based communities and philanthropic groups.”

The plan will involve information gathering and outreach, creating and implementing an action plan, and evaluating the progress in several areas. Criteria to evaluate the health and quality of life of older adults include: Outdoor spaces and buildings, Transportation, Housing, Social participation, Respect and social inclusion, Civic participation and employment, Communication and information and Community support and health services.

As defined by the AARP, “In a livable community, people of all ages can….take a walk; safely cross the street; ride a bike; use public transportation; live comfortably; work or volunteer; enjoy public places; socialize; spend time outdoors; be entertained; go shopping; buy healthy food; easily get to quality medical care; find the services they need; and make their city, town, or neighborhood a lifelong home for everyone regardless of age, physical ability, income, cultural background, race, or other factors.”

Howard County is on its way to meeting the criteria with existing initiatives such as Complete Streets, expanding RTA service, Livable Homes and Senior Tax Credits, investing in recreation facilities and 50-plus centers, and building adherence to universal design guidelines in 55-plus communities.

The age-friendly designation was created by the World Health Organization in 2006 to help communities prepare for aging populations. In 15 years, people over the age of 65 will outnumber children under the age of 18 for the first time in U.S. history.

Residents can find more information about this process and opportunities to participate in community workgroups at www.howardcountymd.gov/agefriendly.

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