Making Columbus Age Friendly
By: Michael Stinziano
Originally published in Columbus Underground
We’re getting older. While your first reaction might be an eye roll for saying the obvious, I want you to think about the fact that we are all experiencing the obstacles of aging on a daily basis. Older neighborhoods in cities like Columbus have cracked sidewalks, crosswalks that offer little time to cross busy streets, or a lack of wheelchair ramps in housing and businesses that pose a challenge for our seniors to navigate. Aging will eventually affect us all. Getting to work or school, or even going to a movie or a restaurant, might not be a problem for us now, but it could be when we’re older. These are very important issues.
Central Ohio’s 65 and older population is set to double in the next 35 years. This is not a trivial statistic we can ignore, nor is it a dire warning of trouble ahead. That statistic is an opportunity — one that I, along with my friends at the Age Friendly Columbus Initiative, have been studying for the past two years. Thanks to this work, Columbus and Central Ohio have positioned ourselves to be national leaders in creating neighborhoods that are truly friendly to people of all ages.
As one of the co-chairs of the initiative, I am honored to have taken part in what served as a model for community engagement. The initiative held inclusive surveys, focus groups, and neighborhood meetings in a process that included feedback from our older adults. Hearing directly from our older residents served as both a challenge and a major strength of the initiative’s work. It takes time to build relationships and earn trust, but I am confident that Age-Friendly Columbus set a foundation where we are now all working together toward a truly age-friendly city.
Working with many community partners including the World Health Organization, AARP, The Ohio State University, and the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission, we have set out to improve the lives of our 65+ population in the areas of communication, health services, public spaces, housing, employment, transportation, social inclusion, emergency preparedness, civic participation and more.
Over the next three years, along with the Columbus City Council, Age-Friendly Columbus leaders, and Mayor Andrew Ginther’s office, we will continue supporting Columbus’ aging community in order to create a city where citizens of all ages and abilities can flourish. Through the Age-Friendly Columbus Strategic Plan, we strive to provide a safe and supportive community to all residents. Together, we will continue working with our elders to honor and respect our history as we look toward a future of innovation.
One such strategy is the adoption of an “aging lens” in our city departments, buildings, and spaces. We will review our public spaces, parks, and processes to ensure that we are facilitating inclusive-planning efforts within city, and eventually county, departments.
These are important areas to study, because they force us to think about issues you might ignore if you’re not a senior. But, keep in mind, someday you will be. It’s important to begin to solve problems now so that neighborhoods like Clintonville, German Village, Linden and the Short North don’t become unreachable for certain groups of people. Enjoying our parks, fine dining and shopping, and other events shouldn’t be off limits because of the number of birthdays someone has celebrated.
Luckily, the study we have been conducting here in central Ohio has paid off with some real data and highlights that will help solve these issues. Just last month, that study was released with a trove of information. Everyone should read the findings published at agefriendlycolumbus.org and share with me your thoughts and ideas that could help our community become more Age Friendly.
We’re getting older, but with the foresight and commitment to improving life for our elders and ultimately everyone in our neighborhoods, we’re getting a little wiser too.