Age-Friendly Community Initiatives (AFCIs): Concepts and Approaches

The US population of 65 years old and older is projected to increase from 46 million to more than 98 million in 2060. This growth in the elderly population will be accompanied by a growth in disability rates among the elderly, due to poorer physical and mental health among aging Baby Boomers. After 2005, when the World Health Organization (WHO) launched the Global Age-Friendly Cities, each country adopted a different approach to develop age-friendly communities. Traditionally in the United States, policies surrounding aging adults focus on the delivery of long term services and support, such as providing Social Security benefits. However, a more recent approach to better meet senior citizens’ needs is to create social and physical environments benefitting older adults (Greenfield, Oberlink, Scharlach, Neal, & Stafford, 2015). There are three types of Age-Friendly Community Initiatives (AFCIs) in which communities better equip themselves to include and support their aging members:

Community planning approaches, such as AARP Public Policy Institute’s Livable Communities Initiative (AARP, 2014), the Milken Institute’s Best Cities for Successful Aging Initiative (Chatterjee & DeVol, 2014) and the WHO’s Global Age-Friendly Cities Project (WHO, 2007) where a top–down model involves a community needs assessments. These activities are sometimes under the auspice of local government but other times originate from universities or other research, policy, service, or advocacy organizations. This method examines how a community can enhance transportation and mobility, housing and universal design, civic engagement and social participation, and access to services and supports for the aging members of their community to ensure active participation for years to come.

Support-focused approaches, AFCIs that include an explicit method on creating a support-focused cluster, centered on community wide collaboration. Examples include convening local stakeholders to address service delivery issues within the community or creating a pool of community volunteers that allow neighbors to more readily help their neighbors. Two nationally prominent models of this type are Villages and   Naturally   Occurring   Retirement   Communities Programs (NORC programs).  Both models share an emphasis on promoting older adults’ access to services and reducing social isolation through efforts to transform social relationships at the community level (Greenfield et al., 2015).

Cross-sector partnership approaches prioritize collaboration among different organizations and individuals to expand the range of sectors focused on aging. The focal mechanism of cross-sector partnership approaches is the bringing together of entities from a wide range of sectors to develop and implement locally based action plans concerning aging, which can lead to a variety of proximal objectives under this category. Examples of cross-sector partnership approaches include the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Community Partnerships for Older Adults (CPFOA) program, and several grantees as part of Community Innovations for Aging in Place (CIAIP), a U.S. Administration of Aging (AOA) demonstration program, which made cross-sector partnership the cornerstone of its initiatives (Oberlink, 2014).

Each of the above-mentioned models try to allow communities to provide their aging members more choices for enjoying rest of their lives in a dignified fulfilling manner. In moving away from strict service delivery methods to more collaborative, holistic approaches, age-friendly communities let their older adults receive the care they need while enabling them maintain their self-reliance.

Bookman, A. (2008). Innovative models of aging in place: Transforming our communities for an aging population. Community, Work & Family, 11(4), 419–438. https://doi.org/10.1080/13668800802362334
Choi, M., & Warner, M. E. (2015). Collaboration: The key to building communities for all generations (The Municipal Yearbook 2015) (pp. 27–39). Washington, D.C.: International City County Management Association.
Greenfield, E. A., Oberlink, M., Scharlach, A. E., Neal, M. B., & Stafford, P. B. (2015). Age-Friendly Community Initiatives: Conceptual Issues and Key Questions. The Gerontologist, 55(2), 191–198. https://doi.org/10.1093/geront/gnv005
Guo, K. L., & Castillo, R. J. (2012). The U.S. Long Term Care System: Development and Expansion of Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities as an Innovative Model for Aging in Place. Ageing International, 37(2), 210–227. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12126-010-9105-9
Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University. (2014). Housing America’s Older Adults— Meeting the Needs of an Aging Population (p. 40). Cambridge, MA. Retrieved from http://www.jchs.harvard.edu/sites/jchs.harvard.edu/files/jchs-housing_americas_older_adults_2014.pdf
Lehning, A. J., Scharlach, A. E., & Davitt, J. K. (2017). Variations on the Village Model: An Emerging Typology of a Consumer-Driven Community-Based Initiative for Older Adults. Journal of Applied Gerontology, 36(2), 234–246. https://doi.org/10.1177/0733464815584667
Loukaitou-Sideris, A., Levy-Storms, L., Chen, L., & Brozen, M. (2016). Parks for an Aging Population: Needs and Preferences of Low-Income Seniors in Los Angeles. Journal of the American Planning Association, 82(3), 236–251. https://doi.org/10.1080/01944363.2016.1163238
Menec, V. H., Means, R., Keating, N., Parkhurst, G., & Eales, J. (2011). Conceptualizing Age-Friendly Communities<a href=”#fn1″>*</a>. Canadian Journal on Aging / La Revue Canadienne Du Vieillissement, 30(3), 479–493. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0714980811000237
Micklow, A. C., & Warner, M. E. (2014). Not your mother’s suburb: Remaking communities for a more diverse population. The Urban Lawyer, 46(4), 729.
Oberlink, M. R. (2014). Community Innovations for Aging in Place (CIAIP)  Final  report. CIAIP Publications.
Smith, S. K., Rayer, S., & Smith, E. A. (2008). Aging and Disability: Implications for the Housing Industry and Housing Policy in the United States. Journal of the American Planning Association, 74(3), 289–306. https://doi.org/10.1080/01944360802197132
Sykes, K. E., & Robinson, K. N. (2014). Making the Right Moves: Promoting Smart Growth and Active Aging in Communities. Journal of Aging & Social Policy, 26(1–2), 166–180. https://doi.org/10.1080/08959420.2014.854648

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *