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Celebrating Age-Friendly Sarasota Achievements: Innovation in Planning for All Ages Award

Posted on September 05, 2017 | by Kathy Black
Celebrating Age-Friendly Sarasota Achievements: Innovation in Planning for All Ages Award

We are excited to share that Age-Friendly Sarasota County has received the inaugural Award for Innovation in Planning for All Ages by the American Planning Association, Florida Chapter. The Sarasota County’s Voluntary Universal Design and Visitability program was selected as the winner in the new award category which recognizes outstanding planning projects in the State of Florida and seeks to promote projects where quality planning is innovative, impactful, and replicable in other communities. Beginning this year, the Innovations in Planning for All Ages Award focused on projects, programs or campaigns which contribute to making a community more age-friendly. Specifically…

• How has the project or program helped the local community become more age-friendly?

• What influence has the project had on public awareness on the importance of including age-friendly considerations in planning decisions?

• What tangible impacts have the project or program had within the community regarding being able to age in place?

• What connection is there between the effort's success and increased awareness in the community of barriers with respect to this issue?

Among the challenges and opportunities associated with aging are increases in disabilities that may impact the ability to remain in one’s home. Home construction represents a critical opportunity to support an aging population, but builders often fail to take accessibility into account in their designs and residents do not think to ask for it until an injury or illness makes it necessary. Universal Design is a concept that incorporates small design changes to support people of all abilities to live in a home. Some elements that make a home more age-friendly include no-step entry, wider doors, easy grasp handles, knee space beneath sinks, elevated dishwasher or stove, different height workspaces, walkway and hallway lighting, and more. These small changes can be quite inexpensive when applied in new construction, but much less affordable as a retrofit, making the planning and design stages of residential developments critical to facilitating the ability for residents to age in place.

The Age-Friendly Sarasota initiative began with a survey and focus groups reaching approximately 1,200 Sarasota County residents aged 50 plus. Residents identified the importance of aging in place, however, noted that universal design features in housing are not widely available. To encourage the incorporation of these designs into local housing, Sarasota County adopted a resolution creating a voluntary Universal Design and Visitability program for residential housing units. This program provides certification, recognition, and fast track permitting incentives for housing units that meet design criteria for accessibility. The county developed checklists for design standards for both Universally Designed homes and less stringent, visitable homes (designed so those with disabilities can visit a home). Local builders can simply submit the checklist with their building permit to receive fast track permitting on their project, and recognition and certification after completion.

Since its adoption in December of 2015, the Universal Design and Visitability program has focused on education and outreach to both building professionals and residents. Several presentations have been given to the Manatee-Sarasota Building Industry Association to build awareness and encourage participation in the program among builders. In addition, to build demand for these strategies, a series of educational workshops have been given to educate the public on the importance of considering age-friendly designs in the home. The workshops have been well received with attendees noting their personal challenges taking care of an aging parent or spouse and informing current efforts to design homes incorporating these principles. The combination of education with an incentive program is shifting the conversation locally and working to increase the availability of age-friendly housing.

Age-Friendly Sarasota is proud to partner with Sarasota County on issues that enhance active, healthy, engaged living across the life course for people of all ages and abilities. Illustrating a multi-sector model of collaboration, the receipt of this Award signifies the recognition of our community’s collective efforts to being an age-friendly community – for all ages!

LEARN MORE about the Universal Design Resolution.


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