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Celebrating a Year of Age-Friendly Sarasota

Posted on August 10, 2016 | by Kathy Black
Celebrating a Year of Age-Friendly Sarasota

Sarasota is home to many firsts and bests- in rankings and status - and it’s time to celebrate yet another: Age-Friendly Sarasota completed its first year this month and there have been many notable accomplishments.

An initiative designed to support active, healthy and engaged living in all aspects of community life, Age-Friendly Sarasota is Florida’s first World Health Organization age-friendly community – joining nearly 300 worldwide.

The initiative, supported by The Patterson Foundation in partnership with AARP Florida, the Florida Department of Elder Affairs, Sarasota County Government, the Florida Policy Exchange Center at the University of South Florida (USF) and USF Sarasota-Manatee, has achieved considerable success in three distinct components: research, community engagement and communication.

The baseline phase of the five-year initiative required assessing our community’s assets and the age-friendly aspirations of people age 50 and older in three clustered domains that represent eight areas of community life including the following:

Built Environment/ InfrastructureSocial Environment/

Social Capital

Community & Health Services/ Access
· Housing

· Transportation

· Outdoor Spaces & Public Buildings

· Social Participation

· Civic Participation &       Employment

· Respect & Social Inclusion

· Communication & Information

· Community Supports & Health Services

Nearly 1,200 residents, representing every zip code throughout the county, participated in surveys or focus groups that were conducted at all public library locations. Due to extensive outreach and public input, responses to the study surpass that of comparably-sized age-friendly communities.

To facilitate better understanding of the findings, data was analyzed by age cohorts with about half of the sample representing either Boomers (born between 1946 and 1964 and age 50-69) or beyond (age 70 or older at the time of the study), which reveals important distinctions for consideration by the community.

Age-Friendly Sarasota also engaged the community in novel, measurable and impactful ways. In its first year, more than 100 events were held across the county at farmers markets, fairs, and festivals with more than 3,000 attendees at the local, regional, state, national and international level.

Age-Friendly Sarasota was shared with a variety of audiences and venues including businesses, government planners, professional societies, at the American Society on Aging, with Age-Friendly giants NYC and Chicago, and by request, to the Ageing and Life Course Team at the World Health Organization in Geneva. Age-Friendly Sarasota also hosted several prominent thought leaders including national author Beth Baker, on aging in place; and several events with urban planners and community and neighborhood leaders with Dr. Rodney Harrell, Director of Livable Communities at the AARP Public Policy Institute.

Communicating about Age-Friendly Sarasota is centered on both traditional and social media modalities that reach multiple stakeholders to identify and build upon age-friendly assets and aspirations that will enhance our collective longevity. Successes here include sharing age-friendly practices that currently serve county residents – of which more than half are age 50 and older. This includes the dissemination of age-friendly governmental assets, such as Sarasota County’s Voluntary Resolution on Universal Design and Visitability Certification for Builders – which promotes aging in place, and the promotion of innovative dramatic arts programming on aging by the renowned Florida Studio Theatre.

Age-Friendly Sarasota celebrates its inaugural year with much gratitude to the people, businesses, nonprofits, and government that proudly provide services that benefit all residents and remain committed to better serving people at all stages of life and abilities. As a community for all ages, we are poised for even greater success in the years ahead.


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