The city of Puyallup recently was designated as an AARP/WHO Age-Friendly City, the first city in the state to receive that distinction.
Doug Shadel, Washington State AARP director, will present the age-friendly city certificate to Puyallup Mayor John Hopkins on May 14 at Pierce College Puyallup in the Arts and Allied Health Theatre, 1601 39th Avenue SE.
“I’m excited about Puyallup being an age-friendly city because of the benefits gained by having a healthy and active senior population,” Hopkins said. “When we help our older citizens to stay healthy and active, we are really helping them stay engaged in the lives of their families, neighbors and fellow community members.”
“I applaud the city of Puyallup and its residents for making this a priority and being the first city in the state to be recognized for this designation from AARP,” said U.S. Rep. Denny Heck, D-Olympia, whose 10th District includes Puyallup. “As Puyallup grows, someone born right here in Puyallup 80 years ago can still feel at home as they remain here comfortably in their golden years.”
Puyallup began a commitment toward becoming an age-friendly city in 2001 when it was one of 10 cities nationally participating in the Robert Wood Johnson AdvantAge Initiative.
“The initiative was a community-building effort focused on creating vibrant and elder-friendly, or ‘AdvantAged,’ communities that are prepared to meet the needs and nurture the aspirations of older adults,” said Charles A. Emlet, Ph.D., professor of social work at University of Washington Tacoma and member of the original Puyallup AdvantAge community stakeholder’s committee.
Because May is Older Americans Month, the Age-Friendly City designation award ceremony will be combined with a special event that also celebrates older Americans. Presented by the Puyallup Area Aging in Community Committee, Blaze a Trail to Successful Aging in an Age-Friendly Community is free to the public.
A resource expo offering important aging information opens the event at 9:30 a.m. The age-friendly city award ceremony follows at 10:30 a.m. Roger Landry, a nationally recognized preventive medicine physician and award-winning author will present “Successful Aging, The Benefits of an Age-Friendly City,” at 11 am.
Landry plans to share information on positive aging and what it takes to age in a better way. He also will address the new focus on older adults as human capital vs “accounts payable.”
According to Landry, an age-friendly community is one that acknowledges that aging is not just about decline, but of continued growth.
“Such a community engages rather than cares for its older adults; seeing them as a resource rather than a responsibility,” he said.
According to AARP, the purpose of the AARP Age-Friendly Communities is to “serve as a catalyst to educate, encourage, promote, and recognize improvements that make cities, towns, and countries more supportive not only of their older residents but for residents all ages.”
Research described in a recent report for Grantmakers in Aging concluded that older adults are a growing resource, and an age-friendly community can benefit people of all ages and abilities.
The impetus for age-friendly communities stems from a growing aging population. By 2050, 20 percent of the population is expected to be 65 or older. Currently, 14 percent of Puyallup’s population is over the age of 60.
With the AARP/WHO Age-Friendly City designation, a new community stakeholder group will be formed that will establish and oversee the attainment of various accountability goals. The Puyallup Area Aging in Community Committee (AICC) will steer this effort.
The characteristics of an age-friendly city are reflected in eight areas, including safe streets, sidewalks and accessible buildings; public transit options; housing options for various life stages; availability of accessible, fun, social activities; availability of intergenerational activities; ability to continue working or participate in volunteer activities; dissemination of information and access and affordability of community health services.
“Age-friendly cities are not just important for those reaching senior status, but rather every generation,” Heck said. “This gives our community peace of mind from a safety perspective, and also ensures the older generations are around for the long-term as valuable volunteers, citizens and contributors to making the community even more vibrant than it was before.”
Hopkins affirmed the city’s commitment of adapting to the needs of the changing demographics to serve the interests of residents of all ages, and to take the lead in optimizing opportunities for all ages.
“My wish list is simple: I want for Puyallup to be known as a great place to grow up and also to grow old,” the mayor said.