Maple Grove on path to become ‘Age-Friendly’

Quarter of population 55 or older

Age-friendly is soon to be another word to describe Maple Grove.

Kris Orluck, Senior Program Coordinator at the Maple Grove Senior Center, came before the Maple Grove City Council this month to give it an update on Maple Grove to become an Age-Friendly City. Orluck said the assessment phase of the process has been completed.

According to the staff report, “Older people are the fastest growing demographic in the world and the United States. In Maple Grove nearly a quarter of the population is 55 or older. Communities that prepare for the opportunities and challenges accompanying this unprecedented demographic shift will reap social and economic benefits that improve community life for all ages.”

AGE-FRIENDLY CITY

Last June, Orluck presented the city council with information on the World Health Organization’s Age-Friendly Network. The council gave its approval to formally apply to the network.

In July, the city was formally accepted into the Age-Friendly Network to begin the three- to five-year cycle of assessment, plan, execute and evaluate.

The Age-Friendly Maple Grove committee of about 15 members then began. It is a city-sponsored, community-driven initiative to make Maple Grove a better place to grow older. This committee is led by a committee of community members and representatives of healthcare institutions, senior housing communities, senior service providers and churches.

The group launched with a grant from the Metropolitan Area Agency on Aging. The funding “allowed us to hire a consultant to help lead and launch the assessment phase of our work,” Orluck said.

Additional funding from community partners — Fairview Foundation, Maple Grove Hospital and SilverCreek on Main — will be used in the planning and implementation of the group’s work.

Orluck added, “In an age-friendly community, policies, services and structures related to the physical and social environment are designed to support and enable older people to age actively. That is, to live in security, enjoy good health and continue to participate fully in society.”

She also said livable communities have more vibrant economies.

ASSESSMENT RESULTS

The committee has just completed the assessment phase. This phase included phone interviews with more than 400 individuals, focus groups, pop-up questions and meetings with individuals and departments that work closely with older adults. This was done between June 2016 and this January.

The baseline assessment has been completed, the group found out how age-friendly people think Maple Grove is. Orluck said questions were asked. Some of those included: What is it like to live in Maple Grove as an older adult? What do you like about it? What is missing?

Mark Carpenter, community member of the committee, said, “Overwhelmingly, the thing we saw in all the surveys that we did and all the focus groups was that people like living in Maple Grove.”

The findings of the assessments showed that transportation came across as the top concern of older adults. Carpenter said the three areas within transportation that people want are: transit, walkability and driving. He said people wanted more transit options, as some of the current options have limitations for older adults. The 55 and up group do like and use the walking trails, according to Carpenter.

Housing was another key issue. Carpenter said people like their neighborhoods and want to stay in Maple Grove. People also mentioned the quality of senior housing in the city. “Persons who want to move into more of an assisted living, affordablity was the key issue that we heard about,” Carpenter said.

Other key issues were: navigating the healthcare system and social isolation.

NEXT STEPS

Orluck said, “We are currently in step two, the planning phase.”

The following are next steps:

• Formalize Age-Friendly Maple Grove’s work by determining where this fits into the city structure.

• Request financial and staff/in-kind support from the city.

• Meet with each city department to collaboratively identify opportunities for adapting services and planning to better support older adults. This may include contributing recommendations to the • comprehensive plan update, an idea that key city staff supports.

Contact Alicia Miller at [email protected]