Orange County Addresses “Livability” for Older Adults with Age-Friendly Initiative
The number of Americans 65 and older is expected to nearly double in the next 40 years, far outpacing growth in any other age group. Finding a way to provide for the needs of older Americans will be a challenge. In order to address this, Orange County has launched an Age-Friendly Initiative with the hope of building communities that meet the needs of local residents as they grow older. The ultimate goal is to receive the AARP designation as an “AARP Livable Community.”
The initiative is a grassroots effort to engage local residents of all ages and encourage them to share their thoughts in a Livable Communities Survey. The goal of the survey is to analyze how effectively the County is meeting the eight AARP domains of livability which include:
- Civic participation and employment
- Respect and social inclusion
- Communication and information
- Outdoor spaces and buildings
- Community support and health services
- Social participation
“Nobody was looking at this issue 20 years ago,” explained Lavon Williams, manager of Orange County’s Community Action Division. “What we’re realizing now is we need to look at how planning our communities affects all residents, and if this is an increasing demographic, we need to acknowledge this and incorporate these needs into our plans.”
Orange County’s journey to create a better quality of life for older adults began two decades ago when it formed a permanent citizen’s advisory board and office – Office and Commission on Aging – dedicated to being the voice for seniors in the region. In August 2021, the Commission will celebrate its 20th anniversary, a milestone that marks an opportunity to begin planning for the next 20 years.
The initiative is strategically timed to take advantage of and interweave several community planning efforts underway, including the 2020 LEED for Cities and Communities Initiative and participation in the East Central Florida Regional Resilience Collaborative. At its core, however, is building safe and secure livable communities that have affordable and appropriate resources for residents to stay active and engaged and also remain independent in their community or “age in place.”
The County also has a strong interest in incorporating the needs of elders into several masterplans slated for updating in the near future, including the parks and recreation masterplan, housing masterplan and land development code. The goal is to expand support of older residents by weaving older adult programming into core services in order to help better serve a diverse community.
“We need to support older adults to stay healthy and active, which is what this initiative hopes to achieve … a continuum of care that creates a positive aging experience,” asserted Williams. “The County has done a great job remaining ahead of the curve on this issue.”
To learn more about the County’s Age-Friendly Initiative, contact the Office on Aging at OfficeonAging@ocfl.net or 407-254-9277. To learn more about elder programs, resources, events and programming, go to Orange County’s Senior Services webpage.
Watch the Announcement on Orange TV