Age Friendly Mecklenburg is an initiative that facilitates the collective planning of not-for-profit, higher education, faith-based, private, and governmental organizations along with community residents to improve the quality of life for older adults.
By the year 2035, an additional 140,000 residents aged 55 and older will be living in Mecklenburg County, of which 100,000 will be aged 65 and older. It is the fastest growing age group in Mecklenburg County and nearly half of the total population growth between now and 2035 will come from those aged 55+.
The Age Friendly Mecklenburg Action Plan helps address the needs and access to services for residents within this demographic. Establishment of the plan was vital to Mecklenburg County’s AARP/World Health Organization certification as an Age Friendly Community.
People of all ages need places to congregate and socialize. These areas include parks, greenways, safe streets, sidewalks, and processes to ensure access to buildings and gathering spaces (i.e., elevators, railings, wheelchair ramps, outdoor seating, etc.). The goal of this Domain is to ensure that Mecklenburg County’s public spaces are accessible to all residents and provide a positive, age-friendly experience.
People who do not drive (or would prefer walking/biking to nearby locations) will be aware of and have access to the services and amenities needed to take full advantage of all that the community has to offer. They will have options for which mode of transportation to take (i.e. transit, taxis, cars, ride-sharing, bikes, etc.), and will be able to affordably access safe transportation options that enable them to experience what’s needed to enjoy their quality of life.
The community wants older adults to have housing that is developed/renovated with universal design principles, affordable, and structurally setup to enable seniors to live safely. Since many older adults desire to stay in their home and communities for as long as possible, Charlotte/Mecklenburg needs to offer the services and programs that allow seniors to age in place, and seniors need to be made aware of the housing options and services available to them.
The community wants to be able to provide accessible programs and services that are designed to help combat loneliness and promote social engagement. This Domain addresses the goals of more proactively identifying seniors at-risk of social isolation, expanding the availability of senior-friendly locations and programs, and enhancing the accessibility of social activities for seniors.
The Respect and Social Inclusion Domain complements the Social Participation Domain and challenges services, programs and events to be designed using an age-friendly lens. By incorporating the age-friendly lens into design of different programs and initiatives as well as incorporating the senior voice when seeking community input and feedback, community initiatives will have a broader and more inclusive focus. In addition, this Domain suggests that the community should strive for more intergenerational activities to build relationships, understanding, and collective experiences between seniors and younger residents.
Charlotte/Mecklenburg needs to be a place where there are significant civic and employment opportunities, and it should be a place where age discrimination does not exist. For older adults to participate, the community wants to build awareness among seniors of job and civic participation opportunities as well as skill development and knowledge-building initiatives that would better equip them to participate. In addition, employers and other governmental and civic organizations need to have greater awareness of the interest of seniors for engaging in civic and employment-related endeavors, understand the value of seniors serving in those roles, and be more conscientious about including seniors.
The vision for this Domain includes two primary and seemingly divergent approaches. The first is to expand the technology knowledge base of older adults in Mecklenburg County as well as their access to digital platforms so that they can have access to more information, services, and social engagement.
At the same time, we need to understand and address the fact that many seniors still prefer more traditional methods of communication including the newspaper, other publications in hardcopy, television, and radio. Therefore, this Domain also challenges the community to ensure that pertinent information is conveyed both in the more traditional format as well as using the more modern digital means.
The community desires to increase the availability, affordability, and access to healthcare and social services. With greater capacity to serve residents, the community would be better equipped to support seniors when aging in place as well as to support caregivers. In addition, the community seeks to identify and provide wellness and preventative activities for older adults to help delay or reduce the effects of these health concerns in older adults and the community as a whole.
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