A local committee of volunteers is seeking public input on ways to make Athens County, Ohio, more welcoming and livable for people of all ages, with a focus on older adults. An assessment survey prepared by the group is expected to be circulated locally this summer.
Overall, Age-Friendly Athens County plans to identify needs, implement projects, and establish places and programs where people can grow gracefully, actively and comfortably in sustainable, supportive and inclusive communities across Athens County.
The survey will go out to a random sample of city and county residents through the mail; will be available at a number of local organizations; and will be offered through an electronic format as well (available at tinyurl.com/3tnkf2zb). In addition, a kick-off event will be planned based on COVID protocols.
A survey and upcoming community forums will be the first steps in gathering that information, according to Age-Friendly Athens County organizer Rebecca Robison-Miller.
Age-Friendly Athens County is part of the AARP Network of Age-Friendly States and Communities. The AARP network is the U.S. affiliate of an international effort by the World Health Organization to help communities prepare for rapid population aging and the parallel trend of urbanization.
Robison-Miller, Senior Director of Community Relations for Ohio University’s College of Health Sciences & Professions, explained that the effort includes more than 80 individuals and organizations from across the city of Athens, Athens County and Ohio University. “The Age-Friendly community development plan will take five years to accomplish completely,” said Robison-Miller. “The first two years will be spent on a community assessment to identify our priorities.”
Athens County Commissioner Chris Chmiel, who also serves on the Age-Friendly Athens County executive committee, stressed the importance of broad local participation in the community assessment survey.
"If Athens County is going to become a more age-friendly community,” he said, “we need citizens of all ages throughout the county to spend a few moments to thoughtfully participate in the survey. Citizen input is crucial for a program like this to become a successful reality. This is a perfect example of citizen empowerment – you can make a difference!"
Agreeing with Chmiel, Athens Mayor Steve Patterson said the survey will help local leaders identify and understand community needs, organizing structure for making community improvements, fostering partnerships among community groups and local stakeholders, “and lead to changes that benefit people of all ages here in our community.”
Patterson urged local residents to complete the Age-Friendly Athens County survey. “I encourage everyone to fill out the survey so that we can better support and improve needs ranging from community health services to public recreation and from housing to employment and civic engagement,” he said. “Your input is vitally important as we continue to improve Athens County.”
AARP Ohio Director Holly Holtzen praised Age-Friendly Athens County for getting the ball rolling on the local effort. “AARP Ohio congratulates Age-Friendly Athens (County) on this important milestone and vital step in ensuring that an
age-friendly community initiative will make the community a better place for residents to thrive at every age and every life stage,” she said.
The all-volunteer Athens County organization has an executive committee with nine subcommittees looking at different aspects of achieving the group’s goals. The overall group meets every other month. Future meetings are August 5, October 7 and December 2. Subcommittees meet separately and more frequently.
The WHO has identified eight areas that influence the quality of life of those in a community, particularly older adults. They are: Outdoor Spaces and Buildings; Housing; Transportation; Social Participation; Respect and Social Inclusion; Civic Participation and Employment; Communication and Information; and Community and Health Services.
AARP Research developed a survey instrument that captures the WHO eight areas of an age-friendly community in order to help communities: (1) establish a baseline with regard to older adults being able to age in place, and (2) conduct a community needs assessment to identify and prioritize areas of focus. The survey findings are intended to reflect individual preferences and help policymakers, planners and others better understand the needs of an aging population in order to begin to brainstorm steps and policies that can be taken to improve livability for all.
Age-Friendly Athens County Partners (listed alphabetically) include:
- Alzheimer’s Association
- Athens City-County Health Department
- Athens County
- Athens County Board of DD/Integrate Athens
- Athens County Children Services
- Athens County Foundation
- Athens County Public Libraries
- Athens Photo Project
- Athens Village
- Buckeye Hills Regional Council
- City of Athens
- Integrated Services
- Kennedy Museum of Art at OHIO
- Ohio University, including the College of Health Sciences & Professions, Department of University Planning, and the Voinovich School of Leadership & Public Affairs
- United Seniors of Athens County
For information about getting involved, please contact Rebecca Robison-Miller at 740-707-4252 or email@example.com.