In the Spring issue of Boom, I asked for feedback on what makes a community age friendly. As Athens applied for and received age-friendly designation from AARP in 2019 and must now evaluate itself across several metrics and then develop a strategic plan, we hope Boom Magazine can help provide ideas and feedback to city government.
One of the first responses I received came from Lucille Howard, which I think is worth quoting in its entirety:
“An age-friendly community needs to be friendly to all members— families with and without children, young adults, seniors who are retired or working. No segment of the community flourishes when “isolated” from other segments of the community.I love Athens—seeing university students, as well as middle and high school youth walking, running, biking.On my cul de sac with 20 homes, three families have children from ages one to 17; 5 are working adults with no children; another 6 are retired with no children at home and six homes are rented to graduate students.Daily I see young mothers in the yard with their children or pushing a baby in the carriage; hear the older ones playing hide and seek; basketball at all times of the day. At the same time, they see me and others walking our pets, gardening, and enjoying each other. On occasion, I have asked for help lifting something heavy or when I needed help with my garden.The one thing we do not need is separated or segregated areas where all ages do not mingle, see each other, enjoy each other, tolerate each other, and encourage and help each other.”
The neighborhood Ms. Howard describes probably sounds familiar to many Boomers. She says it’s similar to the one she lived in during the 1940s in Glen Falls, N. Y. My own Brunswick neighborhood in the 1950s and ‘60s included a combination of modest rentals and fine owner-occupied houses, judges, doctors, teachers but also secretaries and mechanics, lots of kids everywhere but retirees also. Ancient Mr. Dubignon stood at the end of his walk and handed out candy as we walked home from school. It was all just happenstance back then by the nature of the street grid and lack of building codes.
Now we will have to make conscious decisions for intergenerational, mixed-income neighborhoods but with a vibrant student community and growing retiree population, Athens is perfectly positioned to increase its all-ages friendliness.