GREENFIELD — The region of Franklin County and North Quabbin has been designated as an age-friendly community and officially enrolled in AARP’s network of age-friendly states and communities. In addition to this regional designation, nine area towns recently gained membership in the network after declaring their commitment to achieving a more livable community for older adults and people of all ages. They include Athol, Conway, Greenfield, Leyden, Montague, New Salem, Orange, Wendell, and Whately. Several other towns are in the process of gaining the designation, including Erving and Leverett.
The Age-Friendly Communities Network is a global initiative that was established by the World Health Organization and is administered in the U.S. by AARP. It claims more than 1,100 members worldwide, including more than 500 American towns and cities. The network connects stakeholders in these communities to promote a common vision of making them better places for people as they age by assessing and improving essential services like transportation, housing, social participation, and others.
“What wonderful news,” said Pat Lynch, chair of the Council on Aging (COA) in Conway. “A small town like Conway could never do this on its own, but joining with the network should hopefully lead to meeting the needs of elders in our community.”
Added Hope Macary, COA chair in Greenfield, “this is just the beginning of a thoughtful process which will support residents of all ages to live a healthy and meaningful life, staying connected to each other and to the community. I look forward to the next steps.”
The efforts to achieve this designation were led by LifePath’s Age-Friendly Project, an initiative supported by the Massachusetts Healthy Aging Fund and led by a steering committee of older adults and stakeholders from across the region. After this enrollment phase, the age-friendly process transitions into a needs-assessment phase, followed by creating an age-friendly action plan and, finally, implementation. The upcoming needs assessment will include a community survey, listening sessions, and other ways to gather needed data. Planning for this phase is underway, and community members will be invited to provide input through different workgroups.
“We are thrilled to be able to lead our region in becoming more age-friendly,” said Barbara Bodzin, executive director of LifePath. “Our mission compels us not only to work to meet the needs of older adults today, but to create a path to a future of welcoming and a supportive place in which everyone can age with the best possible health and well-being. We look forward to collaborating with the community in making this vision a reality.”
For more information or to get involved, contact Nour Elkhattaby Strauch, Age-Friendly Program manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org or (413) 829-9274.