AFS Blog

The social capital of "US"

Posted on March 31, 2015 | by Kathy Black
The social capital of "US"

Recent attendance at the American Society on Aging’s (ASA) annual conference has reinforced the concept about the social capital of people.  Indeed the power of people, and particularly older adults, was identified in our recent Aging with Dignity and Independence (ADI) Initiative, which was conducted in partnership with the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee, SCOPE, and The Patterson Foundation.

The ADI work explored the meaning of dignity and independence to older adults aging in our community, and our participatory action research revealed that older adults were leading efforts and activities to enhance the experience of aging throughout our community.

According to many presentations delivered during the ASA conference, it appears that older adults are heavily engaged in efforts throughout the country.  The role of older adults was highlighted in every Age-Friendly Community (AFC) session. AFCs have been designated by the World Health Organization since 2006. Beginning in 2011, they became affiliated with AARP in the United States.

Among the numerous Age-Friendly Community presentations, older adults are involved in all planning and operational activities. Their input is valuable to assure the authentic voices of their peers. Their input matters greatly and has led to important changes!

Here are some examples:

Age-Friendly NYC created swimming opportunities throughout the city’s public indoor swimming sites by listening to seniors who wanted to swim, but avoided the activity due to difficulties encountered in swimming with bustling children.  As an easy remedy, they created defined mid-day swim times exclusive for older adults. Families and children easily work around the schedule and older adults get their exercise!

Age-Friendly Chicago’s efforts have enlightened older adults residing in a high-rise to develop their own Village program.  The Village model is a membership-driven supportive services program that facilitates aging in place. Now residents are relieved by the range of vetted and helpful services to support them as they age.

Age-Friendly San Francisco has partnered with their disability network to provide enhanced transportation opportunities for disabled older adults to attend a range of outings that would have otherwise been missed.  If aging residents didn’t speak up and avail themselves to create such transportation possibilities for disabled citizens, change simply would not have occurred.

The core of change in all of these efforts is the participation of people!  This should make us all consider our own possibilities based on the potential that each of us can contribute to enhancing the lives of all aging members of our community -- because that really does include ALL of us!


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