The grassroots livable communities movement continues to grow in New York State with 16 counties and municipalities adopting the World Health Organization (WHO) Age Friendly communities agenda including Albany County. AARP sponsored a two-day statewide livability conference in mid-April at Albany’s brand new Capital Center that brought together aging leaders with leaders in design and planning to focus on community issues including universal design housing, transportation, aging in place and using technology. New York City has been a major international leader in the Age Friendly movement and many of the speakers discussed the initiatives in the city and its neighborhoods.
Governor Andrew Cuomo included in his State of the State message a plan to become the first state to adopt the WHO Age Friendly approach. One of first steps will be to have state agencies analyze how their departments are addressing the aging of the population. This approach was actually used a decade ago when the State Office for the Aging under Governor Pataki had Project 2015 which at that time, was asking the agencies to plan for the changes expected by 2015. Now, those plans need to be updated for the coming decades.
During my time as Director of the State Office for the Aging, Project 2015 was followed up with the Livable Communities initiative and the major 2009 conference “Empowering Communities for Successful Aging” which drew over 500 persons to Saratoga Springs and two follow-up regional conferences in 2010. This initiative produced a manual that is available on the NYSOFA website www.aging.ny.gov
Albany County is embarking on its Age Friendly plans which will begin to go public in the coming months when stakeholders will be asked to participate in discussions about the eight domains of interest in the WHO/AARP plan. County Executive Daniel McCoy recently sent a letter to all Town Supervisors and the five mayors of the cities of Albany County asking for their participation. The City of Albany’s Mayor Kathy Sheehan welcomed the AARP conference to Albany on April 12 and she has committed to join the county effort.