HALLOWELL — City officials are continuing to make improvements to the AARP’s eight domains of livability that influence the quality of life of older adults to make Hallowell a more age-friendly city.

City Manager Nate Rudy and intern Clio Barr are leading the effort that was advanced earlier this year when Hallowell received a $6,000 grant from AARP to begin an age-friendly action plan and join the organization’s Network of Age-Friendly Communities. There are 39 communities in Maine that are part of the organization’s network.

“AARP has been a trailblazer on livability and they have established a brand around trying to help communities make decisions on how to make the town more livable, people and pedestrian friendly, and also to increase outreach and communication with older folks,” Rudy said during an interview Wednesday.

Rudy said more than 30 percent of Hallowell residents are over the age of 60, which is a higher than average number for Maine. It means, he said, that there are a lot of people in Hallowell who’ve had careers and experiences who might have extra time they can dedicate to serving on committees and sharing their knowledge.

“We want to find creative ways for these people to participate,” he said.

A large number of them are already taking part in municipal government, from attending and speaking at meetings to serving on boards and committees, but there are some who don’t want that much involvement but still want to be heard. Rudy said the city is thinking of more ways to continue reaching out to them.

The city has demonstrated success in a number of the AARP’s eight domains of livability — outdoor spaces and buildings, transportation, housing, social participation, respect and social inclusion, civic participation and employment, communication and information and community and health services.

There are ample outdoor spaces, there is a high level of social participation among residents and the city adopted a resolution to be known as a “welcoming city” earlier this year.

The city can improve in the areas of communication and housing, Rudy said.

“I’ve heard a number of people say they want the city to improve its communications outreach,” the city manager said. “The council formed a communications committee, and we’re looking at the ways we reach out and the ways we can improve that within our budget.”

Community Housing of Maine has pledged to convert a building on the Stevens Commons campus into affordable senior housing, something the city set as a goal when it discussed what it was looking for from a potential developer of the 54-acre campus off Winthrop Street.

Barr, a student at Bates College who grew up in Hallowell and graduated from Hall-Dale High School, is leading the effort to gauge the city’s age-friendliness using a survey available online and around the city and through focus groups.

She said once all the surveys have been returned or submitted online, there will be a group working to analyze the results to see where Hallowell goes after that. The city is in the process of organizing focus groups and creating spaces where people can go and make their voices heard.

“We want to find out what people think about us and see if we’re all on the same page,” Rudy said. “We want to find the areas where we can be stronger, and hopefully we’ll learn a lot more from the focus groups.”

Cathie Murray, a member of Hallowell’s recreation commission, said the city has a lot of ingredients for living a healthy and productive life, including a farmers’ market, outdoor resources, music, art and theater. But it can do more.

“I hope we keep a multi-generational vibe overall,” she said. “We need young families, too, and we need more sidewalks and biking options that are safe year-round.”

As a senior herself, she said she hopes to see Hallowell become more sustainable each year, relying more on renewable resources and less on fossil fuels.

“I think our community is consciously trying to become a better place for young people to live and grow up in, and that care for the well-being of future generations is important to me as I get older,” Murray said.

City historian Sam Webber said Hallowell has many events geared toward seniors throughout the year, including the holiday senior citizen dinner, which he said is the only time of the year many seniors are able to socialize with friends. The Citizen of the Year — honored on Old Hallowell Day — is often a senior who has contributed to the city over the years.

Maggie Warren, a member of the city’s bike and pedestrian committee, said Hallowell needs high-tech and low-tech ways to communicate with each other, and she said the city has the right people in place with the right attitude to earn the AARP designation.

Patricia Oh, a livable communities consultant with AARP, said Hallowell is a great fit for the organization’s age-friendly communities network because of the strong commitment made by the council and city manager to make Hallowell the best community it can be for people of all ages.

“The bustling downtown with a mix of retail and restaurants provides convenient and somewhat accessible shopping/entertainment for residents of all ages,” she said. “Access to grocery stores and farmer’s markets make it easier for Hallowell residents to gain access to fresh fruits and vegetables.”

Oh said Hallowell has made an ongoing commitment to being a great place to live and has taken a “forward-thinking approach to making the community a place where all ages, economic levels and abilities can thrive.”

In a press release announcing the grant, Rudy said the AARP Network of Age-Friendly Communities helps participating communities develop livability strategies to serve people of all ages, which will complement and advance the city’s plan to develop downtown and in-town opportunities that better serve older people.

Augusta, Waterville, Readfield and Wayne are other central Maine municipalities part of AARP’s network. Augusta has a committee devoted to making the city livable for people of all ages, and it just completed a comprehensive resource guide being reviewed by AARP.

Jason Pafundi — 621-5663

[email protected]

Twitter: @jasonpafundiKJ

 

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