Volunteers seek AARP age-friendly designation for Stark County

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Dawn Moeglin, a member of the Age-Friendly Stark County Steering Committee, on Tuesday asks for the Stark County commissioners' support in seeking AARP's designation of Stark County as "age-friendly."
Dawn Moeglin, a member of the Age-Friendly Stark County Steering Committee, on Tuesday asks for the Stark County commissioners' support in seeking AARP's designation of Stark County as "age-friendly."

CANTON – A committee is asking the Stark County commissioners to support its application for AARP to designate the county as "age-friendly."

The Age-Friendly Stark County Steering Committee requested Tuesday that the commissioners sign a letter of commitment that's required by AARP to seek an age-friendly designation. The group is not asking the county for funding.

Commissioner Janet Weir Creighton said she had spoken with the committee members and that she supports the initiative. She asked the other two commissioners to do so.

The commissioners could approve the request as early as Wednesday.

The committee members are: Dawn Moeglin of Full-Circle Fundraising; Susan Sigmon of Direction Home for Akron Canton Area Agency on Aging and Disabilities; Lynne Dragomier, the former vice president of public relations and marketing for what was Mercy Medical Center; and Kay Feagles, the chair of Women's Impact. Sigmon worked on getting Summit County designated as "age-friendly."

In its slide presentation, the committee said nearly 61,000 Stark County residents are over the age of 65. That number is expected to double the next 30 years.

Moeglin said later that getting designated as "age-friendly" will aid Stark County's economic development by attracting employers who want to recruit members of multi-generational families as employees.

"People are coming back to Ohio where they grew up to take care of an aging population," Moeglin told the commissioners.

She said part of the initiative's purpose is educating seniors, including telling them that federal programs such as Medicare do not cover the cost of home care.

Seeking funds

Moeglin said the committee needs only $14,700 to pay for the AARP's required community assessment. The committee plans to hire consultant Centers for Community Solutions to perform the assessment within a year.

She said the committee will ask the Stark County Community Foundation and perhaps others to contribute to covering the cost.

An AARP "age-friendly" community has:

  • Established a commission or panel that includes older residents in "age-friendly" program planning.

  • Conducted a community needs assessment, much of it done through surveys of residents within the first year. For example, the surveys could ask residents if they plan to age in their homes or move into assisted living. Or how they get to stores or medical appointments.

  • Develop a plan based on the assessment and submit the plan for review to AARP. The plan would address areas like outdoor spaces and buildings; communication and information; civic participation and employment; respect and social inclusion; arts, entertainment, leisure; housing and neighborhoods; and transportation and walkability.

  • Implement the plan and share what's worked with AARP.

The communities need to repeat the process every five years or so.

"We believe that communities should provide safe, walkable streets, age-friendly housing and transportation options; access to needed services; and opportunities for residents of all ages to participate in community life," one of the slides said.

AARP says it is an organizational affiliate of the World Health Organization's "Global Network for Age-Friendly Cities and Communities." And that its network of age-friendly communities seeks to encourage local leaders to put in effect "changes that make communities more livable for people of all ages, especially older adults," according to  AARP's program handbook.

The AARP has designated 19 counties, cities and townships in Ohio as age-friendly or aspiring to be age-friendly. The list includes Akron, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Cuyahoga County, Franklin County, Delaware County and Summit County. Columbus was the first in 2015. The first in the country was Macon-Bibb, Georgia, in 2012.

The handbook says AARP does not endorse member communities as places to live. "Nor does it mean the member communities and states are currently age-friendly and great places to retire."

Moeglin said she and other committee members have been discussing seeking the designation for a year after Akron obtained the age-friendly designation in 2019, followed by Summit County in 2020.

'Storm ready'

Separately, staff of the Stark Emergency Management Agency told the commissioners Tuesday that the county has achieved the designation of "Storm Ready" by the National Weather Service.

However, it's not clear if the designation would provide any benefit in terms of lower insurance premiums or an advantage in seeking grant funding after a natural disaster.

According to the National Weather Service, to be "Storm Ready," a community must have a 24-hour emergency operations center, multiple ways to communicate severe weather warnings and forecasts to residents, have a local weather monitoring system, use seminars to improve public readiness for natural disasters and have a formal hazardous weather plan.

The meeting Tuesday was the first in the commissioners' new larger board room since the completion of extensive renovations to the commissioners' offices from last year to this spring.

Reach Robert at robert.wang@cantonrep.com. Twitter: @rwangREP.

This article originally appeared on The Repository: AARP "Age Friendly" designation sought for Stark County