Is Your Community Age-Friendly?
August 22, 2018 | Healthy Aging
Walking to the store today, I encountered three cracked sidewalks, a tree root breaking through the concrete and trash.
For someone with limited mobility, these obstacles might as well be a moat swimming with sharks or a cavern without a bridge. Research has shown there is a connection between health and neighborhood conditions. Housing, outdoor spaces and the way buildings are constructed can all affect our health, particularly the health of older adults.
“Age-friendly” communities support the physical and emotional health of a community throughout their life and adapt to the changing needs of members as they age.
For example, poor transportation or uneven sidewalks may prevent someone with a walker from getting to a doctor’s appointment or the grocery store.
How do you know if your community is “age-friendly?” The World Health Organization put together a checklist that evaluates outdoor spaces, buildings, transportation, housing, social events, employment, communication and other factors. Some characteristics of “age-friendly” communities include:
- Pavements that are non-slip and wide enough for wheelchairs.
- Sufficient and affordable housing that is safe and close to services.
- Events that are held when convenient for older people.
At Iora, we care for the whole person and care about our local communities.
Recently, our Medford, Massachusetts practice hosted the first ever photovoice project in the United States on “age-friendly” communities.
Through photovoice, patients use photos to highlight obstacles that are often overlooked in their communities.
After learning about “age-friendly” communities, Iora patients were loaned cameras to document the conditions in their neighborhoods. Their photos showed the need for changes in their own backyards. One patient photographed bus stops without benches that would provide a place to rest while traveling. Another photo showed a crosswalk that didn’t have a long enough walk signal for slower pedestrians to cross six lanes of traffic.
When discussing their work, many of the Iora patients said they did not know how to make their voices heard. Luckily for the Iora patients, their work was showcased during an exhibit at Iora Primary Care Medford. During the exhibit, the Mayor of Malden Gary Christenson and other community leaders and representatives were in attendance to listen to the patients’ concerns and review the photos.
Pictured is the Mayor of Malden, Massachusetts, Gary Christenson, with community members who participated in the photovoice project. Also pictured is our Behavioral Health Specialist Intern, Hannah Mason who ran the project.
Is your community “age-friendly?” What changes would you like to see to make your neighborhood more “age-friendly?”