Senior Life: City plans a senior-friendly future

The City’s Commission on Affairs of the Elderly has recently launched the “Age Friendly Boston” initiative, aimed at making transportation, public meetings and public spaces more accessible and respectful to Boston’s older denizens. It all ties into the City’s coordinated development of improvements for the future Boston of 2030.

“Mayor Walsh is committed to Boston becoming an age-friendly city,” Andrea Burns, director of the initiative, told the Gazette last week.

“We’re looking at the trends,” she said. “The demographic trends of increasing urbanization and the aging of the population provide a framework for looking at your own city.”

Burns said the City is committed to a five-year process of looking at how age-friendly various aspects of life in Boston are, including: transportation; public spaces and buildings; respect and social inclusion; civil engagement; employment; and community services and support.

“We’re talking to a lot of older residents throughout the neighborhoods,” Burns said. “With that information, we will begin drafting an action plan.”

The Commission is in the process of setting up meetings around the City’s neighborhoods “right now,” Burns said, as well as enlisting the City Hall To Go truck, which will start visiting neighborhoods next month.

“We want to hit every neighborhood if possible,” Burns said. “The first year is dedicated to talking to a lot of people. We’re aiming for about 5,000 older residents from a wide range of ethnicities and a good representation of the neighborhoods.”

A visit to JP is planned for April 9, noon to 2 p.m., in Curtis Hall.

Commissioner Emily Shea told the Gazette that, “while we’re out there listening and working on our plan, we know there are things we need to be working on.”

The Commission is also working on setting and achieving the City’s housing goals for 2030. That will mean creating at least 5,000 new units of affordable housing just for seniors, a task currently in the search for more state funds

Shea said the Commission as a whole is focused on “how can we, as a city, create and maintain programs to support our residents as they age?”

Some examples she cited include adding ramps to sidewalks and making sure taxis are accessible to people with limited mobility.

Commission on Affairs of the Elderly also manages grants given to organizations like JP’s Ethos that provide support services for the elderly. They also provide direct services like the MBTA shuttle service, which provides some 40,000 rides per year, “mostly to doctors’ appointments,” Shea said.

It is also currently training emergency responders in how to respond to patients with dementia. It also helps people arrange services with City Hall or navigate other services in the community, she added.

The Commission’s website is cityofboston.gov/elderly.

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