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Age-Friendly Sarasota: Steps toward a lifelong community

Posted on May 06, 2015 | by The Patterson Foundation
Age-Friendly Sarasota: Steps toward a lifelong community

Cities and communities around the world are striving to become places that encourage those who live there – from their eldest residents to their youngest – to live well throughout their lifetime through innovative approaches and enhancements that reflect community aspirations. And now, Sarasota County is one of them.

Sarasota County has entered a network of more than 250 cities and communities worldwide promoting greater health and well-being for people of all ages through Age-Friendly Sarasota, an intergenerational effort to engage businesses, government, organizations and local residents in the development of a more livable community.

The age-friendly designation, which was presented by the World Health Organization (WHO) and AARP, makes Sarasota County one of more than 50 communities across the United States and the first in Florida in the global network.

“As people continue to live longer while desiring consistent engagement throughout their lives, there is a tremendous opportunity to learn and share knowledge to enable all generations to live well,” said Debra Jacobs, president and CEO of The Patterson Foundation, which is supporting Age-Friendly Sarasota with resources to build community connections. “By engaging citizens throughout Sarasota County in planning for a future built on aspirations and assets, together we will chart a course to a more livable community for all ages.”

Age-friendly cities and communities strive to promote active, happy and healthy lifestyles for people of all ages through interconnected Domains of Livability outlined by WHO.

These domains include:

- civic participation and employment

- communication and information

- community support and health services

- housing

- outdoor spaces and buildings

- respect and social inclusion

- social participation

- transportation.

Sarasota County received a score of 53 out of 100 – near the national average – in the recent launch of the AARP Livability Index, an online resource that measures how well communities are able to meet the current and future needs of residents based on categories similar to the Domains of Livability. Age-Friendly Sarasota seeks ways to enhance these domains locally by facilitating learning and sharing of the community’s current age-friendly resources and future aspirations.

The WHO Global Network of Age-friendly Cities and Communities began in 2010 and has grown to include cities and communities from 28 countries around the world, serving more than 100 million people. Other age-friendly communities have successfully researched, designated and implemented intergenerational approaches to make life better for their residents, including enhancements like additional seating for older riders on public transit, housing for older residents located in close proximity to services and amenities, using younger residents to provide technology training sessions for seniors, and training for family caregivers.

According to AARP, one out of every five Americans will be 65 or over by 2030. Sarasota County’s large population of older residents – more than half of its population is 50 or older and one-third is 65 or older – gives Age-Friendly Sarasota a robust base from which to learn the key indicators of well-being in older age and share this insight with the community.

Age-Friendly Sarasota is being developed and implemented through the efforts of partners including AARP Florida, the Florida Policy Exchange Center on Aging at the University of South Florida, Sarasota County Health and Human Services, and the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee. Dr. Kathy Black, a gerontologist and professor at the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee, will lead the initiative on behalf of The Patterson Foundation.

The local initiative will begin with a two-year planning and research phase to assess the community’s current age-friendly landscape and the aspirations of its residents for future enhancements.

The research will begin with a survey open to Sarasota County residents age 50 and older, and will be conducted over a six-month period. The survey is available on the Age-Friendly Sarasota website and features questions that will be used to help develop an understanding of the community’s livability attributes and potential areas for growth. Following this phase, the community will implement an action plan.

A series of community-learning events featuring thought leaders with expertise in the Domains of Livability will introduce residents to age-friendly principles and practices. These events are scheduled to begin this summer. More details will be available shortly.

Visit to learn more about the initiative and participate in the survey. Follow Age-Friendly Sarasota on Facebook, and join the global age-friendly conversation on Twitter using #AgeFriendly.


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