Livable Communities Initiative

In 2009 Central Plains Area Agency on Aging (CPAAA) launched a Livable Communities Initiative for Butler, Harvey and Sedgwick Counties. Livable communities are designed to make all resources equally available to people of every age and physical ability. CPAAA along with the Older Adult Alliance, a subcommittee under Visioneering Wichita has worked together grow this  intitative.  

A key component of livable community planning is "universal design," an emerging architectural movement that improves accessibility to homes and public venues through such changes as zero-step entrances, consistent counter heights and wide interior doors. Universal design in home construction reduces the need for people to move or renovate their homes as their needs change.  This along with walkable neighborhoods, accessible transportation and access to basic needs including food, healthcare, socialization and recreation for people of all ages and abilities makes up the Livable Communities concept.  "This is an important initiative in light of the aging population crisis in Kansas, which will reach critical mass over the next 20 years," said CPAAA Executive Director Annette Graham. 

Proponents of the initiative believe it will help the Greater Wichita Metropolitan Statistical Area recruit and retain a more loyal citizenry among many demographics, but particularly among older, more affluent people, thereby boosting local economies.  "Older adults want to find homes they can stay in as they age, and they're willing and able to pay for them," said Graham. "The communities that respond to this growing need will enjoy an enormous share of the social, economic and human capital available from the largest, healthiest, best-educated and most affluent generation of older adults in American history."  

The initiative has its roots in the CPAAA's partnership with the National Association for Area Agencies on Aging, which selected Wichita as one of 12 U.S. communities to host Aging in Place Workshops in 2009, over 120 were in attendance.  In 2010 a second summit convened to discuss the jump start grants that were awarded to move Wichita and the MSA toward a more livable community.  In 2011 the group

"With growing concerns over our area's continuing population loss—and lots of forward motion in the area of revitalization—we knew this initiative was right for us," said Graham, "We can tackle our aging population crisis, our overall population decline and our unsustainable suburban sprawl, all inside one wrapper."

The initiative draws further momentum from the federal government's recent creation of the Interagency Partnership for Sustainable Communities, which aligns funding and planning among HUD, DOT and EPA toward the goal of creating livable, sustainable communities around the nation. 

"We're entering a time of national change," said Graham. "Up to now, this type of initiative has been poorly understood and poorly funded, but with the federal government now channeling hundreds of millions of dollars into it, mixed-use neighborhoods and sustainable transportation options will become a new standard. If we get onto the front end of this curve, we can make a measurable difference in keeping the Central Plains economically strong and culturally vibrant. 

Through this initiative we can build early momentum among community leaders who can address the logistics of construction and public policy changes. Graham explained, "then we'll take the message to a wider audience, creating a culture in which the public expects universal design and livable community standards from those who build their homes and public venues."

To learn more about the Livable Communities Initiative and the Older Adult Alliance contact 316-660-5120 or clandweh@cpaaa.org.

 

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