AFS Blog

Manasota Neighborhoods Summit: The Evolution of Communities #ForAllAges

Posted on March 07, 2018 | by Josephine Eisenberg
Manasota Neighborhoods Summit: The Evolution of Communities #ForAllAges

It dawned on me as I walked into the Manasota Neighborhoods Summit that no matter what age we are or where we live, we all have neighbors. Throughout the Summit, I realized how vital a thriving neighborhood is to each of us, and how important it is we connect with our neighbors.

The Summit was held on Friday, February 23rd at the Manatee Performing Arts Center hosted by the Neighborhood Services staff from Manatee County, Sarasota County, and the City of Sarasota. Formal, informal, and aspiring neighborhood leaders of all ages were brought together to learn and share information that impacts the leadership, safety, environment, and enjoyment of our neighborhoods.

The “Creative Applications for Common Spaces” session, one of nine learning sessions offered, began with a truthful yet alarming description of what most of our days entail … waking up, going to work, driving home, parking the car in the garage, and staying inside for the rest of the evening. Our built environment – the human-made space where we live, work, and recreate on a day-to-day basis, shapes everything we do. It is apparent we are losing culture and community because of our growing ability to isolate ourselves. Studies show that in the U.S., only 20% of people know their neighbor's first name, and 13% know their neighbors first and last names.

The facilitator shared highlights of how other cities and countries re-imagined their outdoor spaces and created an invitation for people to gather, connect, and share. The #BackyardExperiment in Australia shows how a pop-up park featuring 60 movable seats, color, a living lawn, library, and lighting almost doubled visitors in just eight days. Visitors grew by 190%, dwellers by more than 240%, and far more children, families, couples, older adults, and social groups were counted – rising to 780%.

In Arlington Virginia, county staffers transformed a sliver of the Courthouse parking lot into a pop-up plaza. In just two days, the area was swept and painted, and large, flower-filled pots were put in place as a decorative barrier. A table and chairs were added, and the one-time parking lot became a welcoming space accessible to everyone.

In our time of intense social media, the truth remains that people of all ages lack networks of personal and social support. The importance of revitalizing neighborhoods and reinventing shared, public space is evident. Strengthening our systems of support and friendship are the basis for a healthy, livable community, #ForAllAges.

The Summit was created to bring folks together, encourage communication among neighborhood leaders, offer face to face dialogue with local neighborhood services staff, and share new resources and information. By the end of the summit, conversations filled with possibility were buzzing amongst the neighborhood leaders with a renewed sense of connection.

Sarasota is the first city in Florida to be designated as an age-friendly community. To truly create an ongoing age-friendly movement, we must continue to come together and connect as a community. The Manasota Neighborhood Summit was a shining example of our desire to learn from each other, share experiences, and evolve to strengthen our community so that it is livable, for all ages.



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