SNHPC’s Age-Friendly Program – Phase I Community Assessments
In 2016, the SNHPC received funding through the Tufts Health Plan Foundation, New Hampshire Department of Transportation, the City of Manchester’s Health Department, as well as support from AARP NH to address the different issues facing the people of different ages in the Southern NH Region, to assess the built environment, and to illustrate the barriers and opportunities for making the region ‘age-friendly’.
This project has been supported by many agencies including Tufts Health Plan Fundation, NH DOT, AARP, Engaging NH, Alliance for Healthy Aging, Manchester Regional Committee on Aging, NHDHHS, NH State Council on Aging, UNH, SNHU, InTown Manchester, NHIP, PlanNH, TransportNH, Easter Seals, and many local organizations and businesses within SNHPC’s fourteen communities. Together, these champions helped steer this work, spread the news, encouraged survey participation, and helped inform the process along the way. The Commission’s enthusiasm was palpable, but it was the added support from these stakeholders that combined to create the success enjoyed throughout the assessment process.
PHASE I: Age Friendly Assessments: In 2016, SNHPC received funding through the Tufts Health Plan Foundation, and was further supported by NHDOT, AARP, and others to conduct age-friendly assessments in each of its 14 communities. These assessments sought to raise awareness and examine assets, opportunities, and roadblocks within four land use planning categories: Transportation, Housing, Recreation, and Economic Development. To help guide this work, SNHPC invited agency and community representatives to take part in the project’s stakeholder committee which advised the Commission through community assessments and assisted in guiding the first of the pilot programs.
We heard stories that illustrated the needs of younger and older generations. Stories like: I just retired and I have no idea what I’m going to do. There are no housing or transportation options in my town. I don’t want to be isolated, but I still want to live in the town where I watched my family grow up. What will I do when I can’t drive anymore? Young adults shared that affordable housing was difficult to find, and that rural communities had little to attract millennials, especially good-paying jobs.
There are many commonalities between younger and older adults, such as concerns about affordable housing and social engagement, but number one on the list was transportation. Whether in rural communities or in larger suburban settings the most common statement was, “If you don’t drive, you can’t exist in this town.”
Assessments involved community conversation as well as multiple surveys. SNHPC collaborated with the project’s stakeholder committee, AARP, Alliance for Healthy Aging (AHA), and Manchester Regional Area Committee on Aging (MRACOA) to create a variety of surveys that would provide insight within four target areas: transportation and accessibility, housing (trends, diversity, and regulations), recreation and social engagement, and business and economic development. (see the Surveys and Assessment tab for survey results) The following is a synopsis of this effort.
- Transportation was residents’ top concern. Generally speaking, seniors were concerned with being unable to get around when they can no longer drive themselves, and millennials desired transportation options. Walkable, bike-able neighborhoods were something all generations desired, but that are currently lacking in nearly all of SNHPC’s towns.
- During the community assessments and the resident survey, many people claimed that there is not enough diversity in housing choices in their respective communities. Regardless of age, a common concern was in finding affordable housing, especially in rural communities. Most seniors want to age-in-place but are concerned on multiple levels about how they might manage it. While seniors are struggling with downsizing, young adults are trying to figure out affordable options.
- There is no shortage of recreation opportunities in the region. Many town libraries and parks and recreation departments provide opportunities for residents of all ages to participate in unique programming. In every community, residents loved to talk about their community’s walking or snowmobile trails, unique partnership programs, and of course intergenerational events such as Heritage Festivals. Common roadblocks described included not knowing what was going on in town, especially once kids were out of the school system, not enough venues or room for expansion, and no senior center or place to connect with friends.
- Most communities in the SNHPC region feel there are a lack of businesses and employment opportunities. Existing businesses may want to ask themselves, how is our business catering to the growing senior population? Furthermore, how are we attracting young talent to work in our industries? SNHPC is very interested in creating an age-friendly business network that considers accessibility and amenity elements as well as utilizing talents from both populations to grow local businesses.
PHASE II-PHASE IV: Age Friendly Pilot Programs:
One of the purposes of the Phase I Assessments was to raise awareness and examine assets, opportunities, and roadblocks on many aspects of quality of life issues for both seniors and millennials. In Phase II, the Pilot Programs, SNHPC staff aimed to move forward into strategic planning and developing recommendations for communities to become age-friendly. Beginning in 2017, SNHPC invited its fourteen communities to participate pilot programs.
Some of the possible programs recommended included:
- Focused Survey To Inform Planning Effort or Program
- Assistance with Specific Age-Friendly Project/Program
- Community Coordination for Transit Service Outreach
- Identifying Zoning Ordinance Road Blocks
- Communications Strategy
- Volunteer Driver Program assistance
Multiple communities were interested in working towards becoming Age-Friendly. Their projects addressed transportation, housing, recreation and engagement roadblocks. As in Phase I, these projects attracted participants from a wide variety of departments including local libraries, planning offices, parks and recreation, businesses, and town officials.
Several pilot programs assisted communities in establishing age-friendly elements and recommendations within community Master Plans. Why was this so unique? Because up until this point, master plans in New Hampshire have not addressed issues as residents age. A side note: The Master Plan is a guiding document that establishes a vision of how a community might grow, what it wishes to preserve and protect, what projects it might fund in future years, and what direction regulations might move towards. It is the responsibility of the Planning Board and a tool for community officials on topics such as housing, transportation, community facilities, energy, economic development, historic and cultural resources, environmental and natural resources and more.
For more examples on pilot programs see tabs under Surveys and Assessments as well as Age-Friendly Community Projects.