Meet Our Advisors: The Partnership for Age-Friendly Communities in Larimer County
Creating a world that meets the needs of everyone, regardless of age or ability, is a matter of equity, as indicated by AARP. We know that by 2030 there will be 73 million people over the age of 65, and by 2035 older adults will outnumber children for the first time in our nation’s history.
It’s crucial for the health and happiness of the entire population that we have neighborhoods that are designed to meet the needs of our aging population.
AARP calls these “age-friendly communities” and Sonders Fort Collins defines itself this way. Already pre-certified as a Lifelong Community by CSU’s Institute for the Built Environment, Sonders Fort Collins is working to establish itself as a leader in age-friendly design by working with the Partnership for Age-Friendly Communities in Larimer County (PAFC).
Meet Our Advisors: PAFC
Lorye McLeod is the executive director for the PAFC. “PAFC provides multiple resources, collaboration amongst different sectors of the community, and innovation solutions that are sustainable strategies to issues that affect older adults,” she says. “All of this is important to Sonders, allowing Sonders to incorporate age-friendly concepts within its housing development to improve the quality of life for all ages and make it easy for people to live their best lives at every age.”
PAFC has been on the advisory board for Sonders Fort Collins since the early days of the community’s development. From the outset, Sonders recognized the importance of involving this group in the community’s growth and design. Sonders continues to look to PAFC as a resource in developing a livability community for all ages and creating sustainable strategies to enhance quality of life as we age.
What is an Age-Friendly Community?
Age-friendly communities are defined by several factors, many of which are important to all individuals, not just seniors. The characteristics of an age-friendly community include:
- Safe and accessible outdoor spaces and buildings. The safety and comfort of residents, both indoors and out, should be paramount in the design of any community.
- Transportation choices. “People of all ages and abilities want to walk, ride a bike, board a bus, or drive a car safely and with confidence,” says McLeod. “Pedestrians need safe sidewalks and crossable streets; bicyclists prefer dedicated bicycle lanes or wide shoulders that are marked.”
- Diverse housing options that accommodate different life stages and incomes. This includes housing that allows for aging-in-place as well as assistance in home modification for this purpose, as well as the promotion of universal design principles in new construction.
- Opportunities for meaningful social engagement and community inclusion. “Everyone wants to feel valued,” says McLeod. “Intergenerational gatherings and activities are a great way for younger and older people to learn from each other and to share experiences honoring differences and what each has to offer.” This means a community will foster engaging programming for all ages and also support work and civic engagement opportunities for older adults, something Sonders prides itself on with the future Sonders Learning Center and its dedicated cottage-style studios.
- Accessibility in communications and services. An age-friendly community will recognize that not everyone has the same abilities when it comes to technology, and everyone will need assistance at some point in their lives. This influences how information is shared and disseminated to the community and also how community and health services operate.
These pillars have been front and center in the development of Sonders Fort Collins. “Sonders Fort Collins allows for a sense of community and for social connections, has opportunities for lifelong learning and single-level housing options that allow for aging in place,” says McLeod. “The community also has safe and accessible outdoor spaces and buildings, and offers residents the ability to become engaged within the community by being so close to downtown Fort Collins.”
Age-Friendly Communities: An Urgent and Collaborative Effort
The inevitability of shifting demographics means that it is crucial to create communities that will address the needs of the entire population as we age. This endeavor requires a multi-faceted and collaborative approach – it’s not as simple as installing ramps and building single-level homes.
Collectively, we will need to address the needs of aging adults in housing, transportation, health services and beyond.
“Sonders is so important to society because age-friendly communities that are built with this in mind improve the quality of life for all ages and make it easy for people to live their best lives at every age,” says McLeod. “Sonders enables residents to stay active, stay connected and able to contribute to the economic, social, and cultural life within our community with their age-friendly housing design.”