Aging

Grant will help Miami-Dade communities become more age-friendly

 

The Health Foundation of South Florida was awarded a grant to make Miami-Dade more age friendly.

aveciana@MiamiHerald.com

Thanks to a national grant aimed at helping communities prepare for an increasingly graying population, Miami-Dade will launch a series of programs to make neighborhoods more age-friendly.

The Pfizer Foundation along with Grantmakers in Aging , a national association of funding groups, have awarded a $150,000 grant to the Health Foundation of South Florida. The Health Foundation, in turn, will contribute an additional $30,000 to the effort while working with five local partners to target improvements in transportation, community design, park programs and older adult employment.

Peter Wood, the foundation’s vice president of community and investment, says the eight-month grant is an acknowledgement of his organization’s already established efforts to make Miami-Dade a welcoming place to grow old. Since 2008, the foundation’s Healthy Aging Regional Collaborative Initiative has spent $7.5 million to increase the region’s attention to healthy aging. Several programs — from chronic disease self-management classes to physical activity initiatives at parks — have encouraged 22,000 older adults to stay healthy and fit, according to the foundation.

As part of the grant, the Health Foundation will partner with the Alliance for Aging, Miami-Dade parks, the county’s Department of Regulatory and Economic Resources, ReServe Miami (an organization that matches older professionals with nonprofits that need them) and the Urban Health Partnership.

“This grant will help us build on what we’ve already started,” Wood said. “We can now work with partners to help older adults age in place, which is what they prefer, close to family.”

The Health Foundation is one of only five foundations receiving one of the grants. Other agencies include nonprofits in Atlanta, Indiana, the Kansas City area and Phoenix. Each group is expected to come up with a percentage of matching funds.

In the past few years, as America has grown older, more non-profits and government agencies have focused on making communities accessible to older adults to help them stay at home instead of in nursing homes or long-term facilities. Efforts usually involve physical changes in living spaces and public spaces, such as making public transportation more accessible and designing homes and neighborhoods for an older population. Other initiatives have included creating cultural and outdoor activities and volunteering options for older adults.

But elder advocates warn that cities are not doing enough to prepare for the challenges —and opportunities — of this silver tsunami. Forty million people are 65 and older in the U.S. today and that number is projected to more than double to 89 million by 2050, as the giant baby boomer generation ages and people live longer. More than 800,000 residents of Miami-Dade, Broward and Monroe counties are 60 and over.

“A larger portion of our society is going to be composed of older adults,” says Martha Pelaez, director of the foundation’s Healthy Aging Initiative and a consultant on aging. “We have to prepare, and this grant allows us to look at the bigger picture.”

The grant will go toward:

• Reviewing the countywide master plan to make it safer for older adults to age in place, including planning for age-friendly land use and community design.

•  Helping develop an action plan with the county parks department to meet the specialized needs of older adults in specific communities. The county has identified a dozen parks to offer programs, including a Walk for Life fitness program, a self-directed FitZone and Vita Course Exercise routine that incorporates equipment at each park and health and fitness workshops.

•  Encouraging employers to increase hiring, retaining and training older adults. This will include workshops to identify how the skills and experience of older adults can meet the needs of local large businesses.

•  Developing “mobility planning” by designing more biking, walking and public transit options at the neighborhood level for older adults.

The Health Foundation has teamed up with other local organizations before to promote healthy aging. The foundation and county park system brought fitness programs to parks including a Walk with Ease Program and a bilingual Matter of Balance class to help reduce falls.

In tough times, says Kevin Kirwin, assistant director of operations for the park system, “the development and implementation of the programs would not be possible without the Pfizer grant and the partnership with the Health Foundation.”

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