AFS Blog

Sharing the Age Friendly Festival

Posted on May 07, 2018 | by Bob Carter
Sharing the Age Friendly Festival

Sharing is such a positive activity. It’s basic to our human development and progression as individuals and as community. Sometimes you are part of something you want to share and welcome opportunities to do so. The highly successful Age-Friendly Festival held last fall at the Sarasota Fairgrounds fits this bill. It was a groundbreaking event, the first of its kind anywhere. It engaged a community of all ages with over a hundred different organizations participating and thousands more attending.

A unique opportunity to share the Festival concept with others presented itself through an invitation from Bill Armbruster who manages the more than 200-strong AARP Network of Age-Friendly Communities. Bill , a nationally known speaker and facilitator, visited the Age-Friendly Sarasota initiative during October 2017 and was one of the many notables who actively participated in the Festival.

Age-Friendly Innovation — National, State, and Local Perspectives (46 minutes)

He witnessed first-hand how the Festival touched and engaged a community and believed other areas throughout the U.S. could benefit from such an event. Bill realized many elements of the Festival could be replicated in other places and asked Age-Friendly Sarasota (AFS), an initiative of The Patterson Foundation (TPF), to present a webinar to a national audience of the AARP Network of Age-Friendly Communities.

The big question was “Why did Age-Friendly Sarasota create such a Festival?” An important answer relates to the significance of connecting, learning and sharing (along with evolving and strengthening) which are hallmarks of TPF supported initiatives. While many individuals and organizations had been engaged in the Age-Friendly Sarasota effort since its conception in 2015, it had still only touched a small fraction of the community. Early efforts did uncover wonderful age-friendly services and programs already in the community, many occurring without broader recognition. Conversations about age-friendly topical areas often created synergistic energy, selectively spurring further program development. It was clear that such efforts were positive, but limited in scope and reach. A broader, bolder approach was envisioned to inform and engage the general community about the importance of age-friendliness, create opportunities to stimulate and enhance synergistic collaborations, and amplify existing organizational and community age-friendly achievements.

The idea of a large scale community engagement took form in the concept creation of a day-long Age-Friendly Festival. Of special note for the local Sarasota effort was the intentional focus on a “For All Ages” approach in planning the event. Wanting to make sure there was something for everyone, the Festival would offer a wide range of interactions that included exhibits, education, experiences, and entertainment. It was planned from the beginning to be more than just a day-long event. It was also about the educating, planning and engaging process.

Early efforts involved identifying and engaging key potential partners and collaborators from the five sectors of community including government, businesses, nonprofits, media, and the general public. The Festival had the potential to create a broader vision of what age-friendly was all about and how it affects all age groups of a community. It was also a vehicle to build and strengthen relationships – both organizational and individual. The process, ultimately, was as important as the event in building an age-friendly awareness into our community.

The Webinar successfully reached its national audience with the basic theme of Engaging Our (Your) Community. The why, how, who, what questions along with other resources and toolkits were shared with pride and joy. Communities throughout the nation and world can do all this in one form or another at their pace and with their local resources. Potential partnerships and collaborative opportunities exist everywhere. Longer-term results will hopefully include the communities embracing and owning this effort. Being age-friendly and embracing the concept of a community for all ages is not only common sense, it is good sense with multi-generational benefits and promise.

If you’ve taken the time to read this blog, I strongly encourage you to take a few more minutes and watch the short video link below that highlights the Age-Friendly Festival event. I promise you will feel its energy!

Age-Friendly Festival Highlights (9 minutes)



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