Since 1999, AARP at the national level has led an ongoing effort to promote and expand livable communities for older adults. It has published two livable community evaluation guides and Beyond 50.05 A Report to the Nation on Livable Communities: Creating Environments for Successful Aging.
In 2006, AARP Vermont was selected by AARP's national organization to launch a multi-year livable community project in Burlington.
Like many other communities around the country, a significant portion of Burlington's residents are now over age 50. By 2010, it is estimated that those 55 and older will comprise 21% of Burlington's population. How do needs shift for an older population in the areas of housing, transportation, engagement opportunities, and service delivery options? How can the community acknowledge and increase the assets of an aging population? Through the Burlington Livable Community Project, Burlington residents, government officials, and service providers are working together as a community to identify and meet these challenges and enhance the livability for its older residents.
Focus on Housing, Mobility and Community Engagement
"A livable community is one that has affordable and appropriate housing, supportive community features and services, adequate mobility options, which together facilitate personal independence and the engagement of residents in civic and social life." (Beyond 50.05) Project participants agreed at the outset that the initial focus would be on housing, mobility and community engagement -- the key factors contributing to successful aging.
During BLCP's first years, the focus has been on gathering information, assessing existing needs and resources, and drafting a long range vision for a livable Burlington by 2016. A large, diverse stakeholder group developed a multi-year work plan. Nearly 1000 of the city's middle-age and older adults contributed to four major research activities. In May, 2007 the results of this work were published in a report to the City: A Great City for Older Adults An Action Plan for Burlington.
Key Project Accomplishments
A number of important changes and developments have resulted from the work of these dedicated organizations and individuals. Here's a look:
- Increased the annual municipal appropriation for Burlington's Champlain
Senior Centers. This ongoing appropriation of $75,000 per year provides a reliable funding stream for operations and has allowed the centers to stay open and provide a wide variety of services and programs to city residents.
- Initiated Fletcher Allen Health Care and AARP fall prevention education and awareness campaign. At Fletcher Allen, 85% of trauma admissions for those over 65 are due to falls and Vermont has one of the highest rates of death from falls nationwide. This campaign included mass media to educate about how to prevent falls, distribution of Taking Steps to Prevent Falling Head Over Heals, an AARP prevention brochure, and promotion of Fletcher Allen Health Care's Matter of Balance classes and fall prevention clinic.
- Cathedral Square Corporation and other local non-profits have launched a demonstration project at Heineberg Senior Housing to better coordinate care in senior housing. This program will maintain or improve the health, function, quality of life, and independence of senior housing residents. While this project is being designed initially for a congregate housing setting, it is hoped it can ultimately help seniors in any residential setting.
- Several BLCP partners participated in the development of Burlington's 2008 Consolidated Plan for Housing and Community Development to include senior housing and programming as a high priority for future federal and municipal funds.
- AARP and other BLCP partners participated in the development of Burlington's draft Transportation Plan which places a priority on development of Complete Streets that accomodate all modes of transportation within the roadway.
- Burlington residents participated in the Department of Public works 2008 city-wide assessment and inventory of all sidewalks to better inform decisions about annual maintenance and repairs as well as establish priorities for new sidewalks.
- AARP launched its first-ever mayoral voter education campaign in 2009 to inform Burlington voters about its candidates stands on livable community issues. All four major candidates responded to AARP's Voter Guide
and participated in a candidate forum.
For more information
BLCP Research Activities
A series of focus groups
for residents aged 50 and older, facilitated by the Snelling Center for Government, explored questions such as: What are your current experiences in Burlington in meeting your changing needs as you grow older? What is needed to be in place to make Burlington your city of choice for living as an older adult?
Several study groups
formed to discuss key areas (mobility, housing, and community engagement) in greater detail and their recommendations were integrated into the multi-year work plan developed by the stakeholder group.
Thirty-five volunteers engaged in active research, conducting pedestrian evaluations along seven key routes regularly traversed by many older residents in Burlington. Crosswalk lights were timed, pot holes and challenging curb cuts were noted, and public bathrooms and benches were documented if present. The findings were compiled and presented to City officials.
In November 2006, 800 Burlington residents age 45 and older participated in an extensive city-wide telephone survey
, enabling BLCP to collect information on respondents' opinions and experiences related to transportation and mobility options, housing and neighborhoods, and community engagement.