Member of Newport City Council and AARP

The City of Newport has been named an Age Friendly Community by the nation’s leading advocacy group for seniors. 

AARP officially welcomed Newport as the latest member of the AARP Network of Age-Friendly States and Communities during a special presentation at the Sept. 25 City Council meeting. 

As the latest community to sign on to the network, Newport’s civic leaders will have access to global resources and information on age-friendly best practices, models of assessment and implementation, and the experiences of towns and cities around the world.

The network helps participating communities become great places for people of all ages by adopting features such as safe, walkable streets; better housing and transportation options; access to key services; and opportunities for residents to participate in civic and community activities.

“Well-designed, livable communities promote wellbeing, sustain economic growth, and make for happier, healthier residents — of all ages,” said AARP Rhode Island State Director Kathleen Connell. “By becoming part of the network, Newport is making a commitment to do even more to improve livability in the community/city/state and involve older residents in the process,” she said. “This is just the latest milestone in a long history of AARP Rhode Island engagement with the City of Newport and its residents – including this summer’s opening of the AARP-sponsored Fitness Park, an exciting addition being enjoyed by many who visit the city’s Aquidneck Park.”

“We’re thrilled to be recognized as an Age Friendly Community,” said Newport Mayor Jamie Bova. “Newport is truly an incredible place to live at any age, and this designation is a testament to the work we’ve been doing as a City not only to enhance the quality of life for our residents, but also the investments we’ve been making in our infrastructure and civic engagement.”

The AARP Network of Age-Friendly Communities targets improvements in eight domains that influence the health and quality of life for all as we age. Communities participating in the AARP Network of Age-Friendly Communities commit to improving their livability through an assessment of needs, development of an action plan, implementation of new projects and programs, and ongoing assessment – all with the involvement of older residents. The eight areas of focus for the age-friendly process are:

  1. Outdoor spaces and buildings
  2. Transportation
  3. Housing
  4. Social participation
  5. Respect and social inclusion
  6. Civic participation and employment
  7. Communication and information
  8. Community support and health services

The livability indicators are planned, implemented and progress assessed in three phases over a five-year period, with continued cycles of assessment and improvement thereafter.

Responding to projections that residents over the age of 60 are likely to comprise over 40 percent of its population (7,507) by 2040, the City Council submitted an application to become an AARP “Age-Friendly Community.” Part of an international effort launched in 2006 by the World Health Organization, the AARP Network of Age-Friendly States and Communities helps cities prepare for rapidly aging populations and the parallel trend of urbanization.

Newport’s Age-Friendly initiative originated out of the Newport Partnership for Families when several members, recognizing the growing needs of aging Newporters, began investigating Age-Friendly projects in Massachusetts. Support from the van Beuren Charitable Foundation provided a report showing significant alignment of the City’s Comprehensive Plan with the eight Age-Friendly domains of WHO/AARP. Bolstered with that information, a steering committee was formed and the Newport for All Ages (NFAA) Initiative was launched. NFAA worked with City Council members and AARP-RI to encourage the Council to pay increased attention to the environmental, economic and social factors that influence the health and well being of older adults by becoming a member of the AARP Age-Friendly Network.

The City’s comprehensive plan already supports age-friendly policies related to some WHO/AARP Age-Friendly domains: outdoor spaces and recreation, transportation, housing, health services and community supports. The Newport for All Ages initiative will build out the City’s plan, working with the resources and guidance of AARP-RI and Age-Friendly RI.  

A multi-faceted community needs assessment will be conducted and analyzed to determine domains in need of age-friendly work to promote livability for all ages and responsiveness to the City’s growing older population.

The analysis will serve as the foundation for crafting a Strategic Action Plan to address the identified needs of its older citizens. Beginning in 2020, a Strategic Action Plan will be designed to move the City forward in fostering age-friendliness and healthy aging. Before starting on the action plan, a core team – recruited from the steering committee – will create both a mission statement and a vision statement that will encompass what the team hopes will be the long-term results of the work. 

The Strategic Action Plan will include implementation priorities with short and long-term goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely. The plan will then break down goals into specific actions, timelines, indicators that measure progress, and assignments of who will be responsible for completion. This work, to be completed by December 2020, will provide strategic direction and a sustainability plan for the Newport for All Ages Initiative.

The project will have multiple partners and supporters. Newport Partnership for Families will serve as fiscal agent and act as the backbone agency. NPFF will engage a project manager, provide coordination and lead the project steering committee. AARP-RI has done significant work on Complete Streets in Newport and will provide support through use of its Livable Communities toolkits and needs assessment survey templates, as well as staff guidance. The Edward King Senior Center will provide meeting space; use of presentation equipment and its director will assist with the needs assessment, strategic planning and implementation work.

Age-Friendly RI will assist in educating community sectors on age-friendly programming and best practices. A core team of stakeholders and older adults representing different segments of the Newport community will be recruited to work on the needs assessment and Strategic Action Plan. The team will include people who bring different skills, experiences, contacts and interest to the work. Some may have expert knowledge. All will share a passion and vision for the livability project. 

Projected Outcomes:

  • A mobilized coalition of stakeholders to include community health/human service nonprofits, businesses, government officials, educational institutions, religious leaders, neighborhood associations, residence councils, AARP-RI representatives, and citizen volunteers to work on Age-Friendly initiatives
  • Increased awareness of the value of older adults in the community and the benefits of moving the City forward in becoming an age-friendly community for all ages
  • A Newport for All Ages Strategic Action Plan that will build upon identified gaps in age-friendly domains and set priorities and action steps for improving outcomes for older adults 
  • Implementation of the plan’s short-term actions and strategic direction and sustainability for the City’s age-friendly work.

Source: City of Newport