Participants discuss making Louisville more “age-friendly” at a workshop at the Main Library. | Photo by Darla Carter

From creating life coaches or more companions for older adults to establishing a central location for seniors to access more community activities and services, there are a number of ways that Louisville could be made more “age-friendly.”

That’s according to some residents who’ve been attending workshops by the University of Louisville’s Institute for Sustainable Health and Optimal Aging and some of its partners.

“The goal is to get the community voice, so we’ve been in all parts of our city,” said Joe D’Ambrosio, the institute’s director of Health Innovation and Sustainability. “Everybody has a different opinion about what’s going to make the city age-friendly.”

The workshops, which have been held at the Louisville Free Public Library and elsewhere in recent weeks, are addressing such topics as housing; mobility and access; social participation; respect and inclusion; and community support and health services. They are being hosted with AARP, the city Louisville and the Kentuckiana Regional Planning and Development Agency.

Residents at a recent workshop at the Main Library raised a variety of issues facing older residents, including isolation, confusion and waiting lists for services. They also spoke about seniors needing help to navigate the internet and fill out paperwork.

Though helping older residents is an important part of the discussion, the institute and its partners are looking for input on how to make Louisville neighborhoods better for anyone, regardless of age or ability.

“This age-friendly movement is really about birth to death,” D’Ambrosio said.

At the Main Library, D’Ambrosio told participants to ponder what they would do if they had all the money in the world to make age-friendly improvements in Louisville.

“I want you all to dream big,” he told the crowd, which had been broken down into two discussion groups to share ideas.

The effort is part of an international age-friendly movement, involving AARP and the World Health Organization.

Louisville officially joined the AARP Network of Age-Friendly Communities in 2016. The network is an affiliate of the WHO’s Global Network of Age-Friendly Cities and Communities. Age-friendly cities are committed to being places where people of all ages are engaged and active members of the community, according to the UofL institute’s website. The cities also develop customized plans to implement age-friendly practices.

Danny Fortier, center, would like to see more seniors involved in activities in the community. | Photo by Darla Carter

Feedback gathered at the forums in Louisville will be used to compile “a report of action steps that we’re going to take to make our city age-friendly,” D’Ambrosio said.

Residents at the recent forum talked about how to get Louisville seniors more active in the community and better able to get help when needed.

“I think we have a lot of resources, but they’re scattered,” said Coby Watier, a patient advocate. By aggregating the resources for better ease of use, “I think we would have more participation.” Right now, “you start making phone calls, but you really don’t know” where to turn to for help.

She and others also talked about the importance of getting young people to work with seniors to not only benefit the older person but the youth as well. Danny Fortier of the Humana Center on Hikes Lane talked about an initiative in which UofL athletes got to interact with physically active seniors.

“I think it was really important for 20-something-year-olds to see 83-year-olds doing yoga and being able to be active and stuff because it changes their idea of what getting older is like,” he said.

Getting Involved

There will be an age-friendly workshop from 2-4 p.m. April 17 at Hand in Hand Ministries, 518 N. 26th St. Another will be from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. April 24 at the library’s Jeffersontown branch, 10635 Watterson Trail.

Darla Carter is a hometown girl who recently joined the staff of Insider Louisville to mostly cover health. She previously served as a longtime health and fitness writer for The Courier-Journal, where she also worked for the Metro, Neighborhoods and Features departments. Prior to that, the award-winning journalist wrote for newspapers elsewhere in Kentucky and Tennessee, covering a range of topics, from education to courts. She's a graduate of Western Kentucky University, where she studied journalism and philosophy, and is the proud mom of two young children.


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