By David Pendered

The Atlanta Regional Commission will use a new $150,000 grant from national donors to help four communities create programs intended to make it easier for aging residents to stay in their homes.

The money will enable ARC staffers to work with two neighborhoods in Clayton County, Morrow, Tucker, and Avondale Estates. The goal is to come up with ideas for local governments to adopt that improve infrastructure, programs and policies that support the ARC’s Lifelong Communities initiatives.

ARC has long been focused on the region’s aging population, and ARC Chairman Tad Leithead gave the subject special attention at the ARC’s State of the Region breakfast in October. Leithead included seniors in his vision for the future.

Imagine, he said, a place, “Where the aging, over 65, could age and grow old with dignity, with programs that allow them to preserve their options and choices, and preserve their quality of life for the balance of their life.”

Metro Atlanta has become a popular spot for baby boomers who are attracted by many of the region’s attributes that attract younger adults who are just starting their careers. The region’s population of residents aged 65 and older is expected to rise from 10 percent today to 20 percent by 2030, according to ARC projections.

In hopes of getting ahead of this demographic curve, the ARC is ramping up its attention on those baby boomers who would like to stay in their homes.

The theme of aging in place was sounded by John Feather, the CEO of Grantmakers in Aging, which, along with the Pfizer Foundation, provided the $150,000 grant to the ARC. The national program, named Community AGEnda: Improving America for All Ages, is part of a comprehensive funding effort in five cities to help them better prepare their communities for seniors who want to age in their home.

“Research tells us that most people want to grow old in the places that matter most to them, around family and community,” Feather sad in a statement released by the ARC.

“But that’s only going to be possible if all of us — regional planners, elected officials, citizen groups, philanthropies, industry and others — start thinking and taking action now to put age-friendly ideas into practice,” Feather said. “Supporting age-friendly development is a natural role for local philanthropies because of their unique knowledge of the people and particular needs of their own regions.”

The grant will allow ARC staffers to continue their efforts to help local governments meet more needs of their aging residents.

To that end, ARC created its Lifelong Communities initiative more than three years ago. According to the ARC statement, the initiative allows ARC to provide:

  • “Technical assistance to local governments and community groups that desire to develop and implement programs and policies to help keep older adults healthy, independent and in the neighborhoods and communities in which they have lived for years.”

In practice, the grants will enable ARC staffers to help the local partner:

  • “Assess the housing options, zoning ordinances and transportation choices. Using the result of community assessments surveys, ARC will make recommendations to improve infrastructure, establish health and wellness promotions and host workshops to raise awareness about the need to create age-friendly,” according to the statement.

In addition to the new grant, funding for the program is provided by Clayton County Senior Services, Clayton County Community Development Department, the city of Morrow and the city of Avondale Estates. Additional grant requests are pending, according to ARC’s statement.

“The ‘boomers’ flocked here seeking opportunity and a great lifestyle, and they have stayed for those same reasons,” Leithead said in the statement.

“Now, they are aging in place, and we now have many individuals reaching their senior years whose homes are far from transit and services,” he said. “By creating age-friendly communities, the region’s older adults can remain engaged in the community and be able to find the services and programs they want and need to remain independent.”

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written...

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