by Jerry Maltz AIA
Event: Towards an Age-Friendly New York City: An Overview
Location: Center for Architecture, 04.05.11
Speaker: Ruth Finkelstein, ScD — Director, The New York City Age-Friendly Initiative & Vice-President for Health Policy, The New York Academy of Medicine
Organizer: AIANY Design for Aging Committee
The Age-Friendly NYC Commission is comprised of members of the NYC Council, representatives from the Mayor’s Office, and leaders of various NYC public- and private-sector organizations. It aims to bring together policy-makers, nonprofit partners, and the private sector to identify resources and create programs and policy change to help seniors live vibrant, fulfilling lives in the city. Ruth Finkelstein and The NY Academy of Medicine are charged with directing this NYC Age-Friendly Initiative.
The focus of the commission is on maintaining independence and preventing disability for older adults through urban planning and environmental means, as well as providing needed services. Qualities of the physical environment have a significant influence on enabling people to negotiate their surroundings. An environment with few architectural barriers, numerous places to sit, and conveniently located restrooms increases the range of functions for individuals and lowers the disability threshold. It enables people of all ages and abilities, not only the elderly, to function with greater ease.
The commission has, to date, established three Age-Friendly Districts in the city: East Harlem, the Upper West Side, and Bedford-Stuyvesant in Brooklyn. Staff members work with local groups and commercial enterprises to raise awareness about seniors. The initiative encourages specific practices: local stores provide seating areas, allow use of their restrooms, and utilize large-font signage; local institutions such as libraries and museums develop programs for seniors; local pools establish special hours for seniors; gyms organize exercise classes; Apple offers technology classes; food markets sponsor cooking classes; hospitals hold lectures about healthful eating. Existing resources are used in new ways. School buses in their idle hours drive older adults to shopping areas. Vouchers are provided for taxis. Stoplights are rescheduled to increase crossing times at intersections. Capital investments made with aging in mind include the design of new taxis and bus shelters. In the restrained economy that we are currently experiencing, a multiplicity of “little” improvements that are low-cost or no cost, but that result in an “age-in-everything” planning approach, have a significant cumulative effect on the surrounding environment — and people of all ages benefit.
Additional Age-Friendly Districts are planned. To learn more details about the commission, and perhaps begin to organize a district in your community, visit the Age-Friendly NYC website, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. At present, more than 900,000 people over the age of 65 live in the city. By 2030, that number is projected to exceed 1.35 million. Hopefully, the commission will help to make lives for seniors as pleasant, productive, and safe as possible.
Jerry Maltz, AIA, is the co-chair of the AIANY Design for Aging Committee.