The city of Columbus released its age-friendly strategic plan on Tuesday, following two years spent collecting data and surveying residents about their top concerns.
The city teamed with the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission and an advisory council to carry out the survey and create the recommendations.
Katie White, director of the project, said that their first step is renovating a community center on the East Side as an aging hub. Other first-year strategies target what White says were the most pressing concerns of older Columbus residents: housing and mobility.
"When we did our survey, we really heard that people want to stay in their houses for as long as possible, so by setting up transportation, and infrastructure, and housing support we can meet their needs of wanting to stay in their houses longer," White says.
The first ingredient White mentions—transportation—is a big priority in the first year of the strategic plan. One of the major goals towards that end is encouraging the use of different types of transportation, like a free circulator they're piloting in the Beechwold and Clintonville communities.
"Other things that we found were mobility challenges," White says. "As an individual ages, they don't want to give up their car because they don't have options that seem as equal or as convenient as driving around."
Columbus is also looking at walking as a critical component of senior mobility, designing a "Safe Routes for All" program that will investigate the best ways to move through neighborhoods with large populations of older adults, and a project to increase crossing times near busy intersections in Linden and Hilltop among other communities.
Another major goal: making both government and private businesses more welcoming to an older population. The group created an Age-Friendly Business Directory and will work towards educating employers about age-friendly best practices for hiring older adults. They'll also be looking at outdoor and indoor public spaces for age-friendliness in their first year.
While the project is hoping to employ two people at all times, the majority of money for special projects, like the community center aging hub, will come from grant funding.