Valuing seniors, building community

We’re all either seniors, or will be seniors one day.

An often overlooked facet of sustainability is how to make our communities accessible, open, and appreciative to all ages, including older residents. That’s why we started our Senior Mobility Project, and why we chose to make age-inclusive communities the theme of our August Grow Smart CLT. From millennials to boomers, 70 people gathered at The Barrel Room at Catawba Brewing Company to participate in a discussion about building age-friendly communities.

older woman on greenway

We kicked off the program with our Program Coordinator Michael Zytkow sharing the results of our Senior Mobility Survey, which has been a focus of our Program Team for the past several months. Michael shared how we want to understand the challenges our seniors face and their desires to overcome those challenges. The survey results highlighted showed the wide variety of hurdles older residents must overcome as related to transportation, but also included some encouraging trends.

Of the seniors surveyed, 19% were unable to reach their destination in the last month, and 27% indicated they only sometimes get to their medical appointments. For many of the survey respondents, the expense of owning a car rules out driving as a form of transportation. On the other hand, 43% of seniors surveyed are interested in trying to use public transit for mobility. However, safety is a top concern that prevents many of them from trying it. Affordability and health concerns are also barriers to using transit for those who took the survey.

All said, there are unique challenges faced by our older residents that need to be addressed if our community is going to remain a great place for future generations to live and to age. (Check out Michael’s full presentation here.)

Catawba panelists

Sustain Charlotte’s Grow Smart CLT: Age-inclusivity event, held at Catawba Brewing.

After we heard the survey results, Michael invited Tracy McGinnis with Southminster and Thelma Byers-Bailey of the LIncoln Heights Neighborhood Association to join him in answering questions from the audience about building age-friendly communities. From eliminating transit fares for seniors, to fixing and maintaining sidewalks, to innovative programs like Cycling Without Age, they shared ways that we can shift towards a community that places higher value on our older residents.

It’s clear from our senior mobility survey and this event that when we address mobility concerns for our older residents, we address them for the entire community. If you want to help make this happen, you can start by joining your neighborhood association, or any community group, and raising up the needs of older residents. The data from our survey is a start, but you can also talk with the seniors in your community to identify challenges they face and advocate for solutions. Because we’ll all be seniors, one day.

Check out the photos and video from the event! Photos by Grant Baldwin Photography.

Special thanks to Kimley-Horn and Southminster for sponsoring this event.

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