Oxford Borough seeks to join network of age-friendly communities
● By Steven Hoffman
By 2050, more than 20 percent of the world's population will be age 60 or older. In the U.S., the population of people aged 65 and older is expected to grow from 35 million, which was the level in 2000, to approximately 88.5 million in 2050. Cities, towns, and communities are already working to address the needs of their older residents and prepare for future generations.
To that end, Oxford Borough is now seeking to join the World Health Organization's Network of Age-Friendly Cities and Communities that would help prepare for the rapid aging of the population by paying increased attention to the economic, social, and environmental factors that influence the health and well-being of older adults.
The World Health Organization (WHO) developed a Global Network of Age-Friendly Cities and Communities to encourage and promote public policies to increase the number of cities and communities that support healthy aging, thus improving the health, well-being, satisfaction, and quality of life for older citizens.
At its June 18 meeting, Oxford Borough Council unanimously passed a resolution that was presented by Oxford Borough Mayor Lorraine Bell stating that, “...the Borough of Oxford supports initiatives and opportunities to engage in the WHO Age-Friendly Cities and Communities Network of municipalities encouraging and promoting public policies supporting healthy aging.”
The resolution added that, “...the Borough of Oxford supports the leadership and commitment of Oxford Mainstreet, Inc. to convene a Blue Riboon Commission to evaluate opportunities to engage in the WHO Age-Friendly Cities and Communities. The Blue Ribbon Commission shall actively seek input from diverse stakeholders...”
Brian Wenzka, the executive director of Oxford Mainstreet, Inc. said that the borough is preparing to submit an application to join the AARP Network of Age-Friendly Communities. The AARP Network of Age-Friendly Communities is an affiliate of the World Health Organization’s Age-Friendly Cities and Communities Program. Once accepted to the AARP Network of Age-Friendly Communities, local leaders and elected officials would work to assess the needs of older residents before crafting an action plan for improvements to meet those needs. Oxford officials and community leaders would then implement the plans and evaluate the efforts on an on-going basis.
The resolution approved by borough council included the World Health Organization's eight domains of community life that influence the health and quality of life of older people: outdoor spaces and buildings; transportation; housing; social participation; respect and social inclusion; civic participation and employment; communication and information; and community support and health services.
The goal is to become a more “livable community,” which means that there will be happier and healthier residents in every age group, including senior citizens. Factors that can enhance a town's status as a “livable community” include how safe and secure it is and how affordable and appropriate the housing is. There should also be access to transportation options for residents, and there also needs to be supportive community features and services. These resources can allow residents to maintain their independence and age in place.
Oxford Borough already has a number of amenities and resources that are supportive of creating an environment where people can age in place. But developing a purposeful plan can only help improve the quality of life that Oxford Borough would offer to its residents.
Wenzka emphasized that joining the AARP Network of Age-Friendly Communities does not obligate the borough to take any specific actions—all the decisions on how Oxford Borough enhances itself as an age-friendly community will be made by local leaders and officials. Joining the network simply signifies that local leaders and elected officials are committed to working toward making the town a great place for people of all ages.
The AARP Network of Age-Friendly Communities was founded in 2012. Pennsylvania communities that have joined the network include Philadelphia, Allegheny County, Pittsburgh, Swarthmore, and West Chester.
Benefits of belonging to the network include access to a global network of participating communities, as well as aging and civil society experts; access to key information about the program, such as the latest news and information about best practices, events, results, challenges, and new initiatives; opporunities for partnerships with other cities; mentoring and peer-review evaluations by member cities; public recognition of the community's commitment to become more age-friendly; and speaking engagements at conferences and events hosted by AARP and promotion through the AARP's media channels.