Age Friendly Portland

Start Date: early 2016

Mission, Vision & Goals

The vision which captures the intent of this work plan reflects the impact of this initiative to residents beyond the older adult population. Achieving this vision will require concerted efforts by all stakeholders in the City.

"Through community led efforts, the City of Portland supports and values residents of all ages in a livable environment that promotes health, safety, independence, active participation, and meaningful engagement in all aspects of community life."

Broad Overview

The development of a well-designed, accessible community that sustains economic growth will benefit residents of all ages. The AARP Network of Age-Friendly Communities is an affiliate of the World Health Organization’s Age-Friendly Cities and Communities Program which is an international effort launched in 2006 to help cities prepare for rapid population aging and the parallel trend of urbanization. This program encourages adoption of features like safe, walkable streets, viable housing and transportation options, access to key services, and opportunities for residents to participate in community activities. (Livability Resources - Great Places for All Ages, 2015)

The program has participating communities in more than 20 nations representing more than 1,000 communities. In the U.S., more than three dozen communities representing more than a dozen states are enrolled in the network. Portland was the first in Maine to sign-on in August of 2014 and to date, there are now 60 communities in Maine participating in the AARP network.

How is your age-friendly initiative structured?

Following the AARP framework.

For more information on the AARP framework:
https://www.aarp.org/livable-communities/network-age-friendly-communities/

Describe any partnerships you have developed?

The City of Portland signed on as an AARP Age Friendly Community in Sept 2014. AARP Maine has been a great partner, offering support, guidance, training and a small amount of grant funding to help us get started. During the assessment phase (spring of 2015) Portland partnered with Muskie School of Public Service to engage two graduate students, who completed a community needs assessment and an evaluation of the built environment in our city. The next phase involved the creation of an Age Friendly Communities Steering Committee made up of Portland community stakeholders. This group has been meeting monthly since October 2015 to identify overarching goals related to four selected focus areas within AARP's 8 domains of livability, with specific objectives and action steps to support each. Our work plan was approved by AARP National in June 2016. Partnerships within the steering committee include:

  • Opportunity Alliance
  • Maine Alzheimer's Association
  • Portland Public Health
  • Volunteers of America
  • Southern Maine Agency on Aging
  • Several Portland neighborhood organizations
  • Muskie School of Public Service/USM
  • Portland Planning Department
  • Portland Housing and Neighborhood Development
  • Older Portland residents/volunteers
  • Home Instead Senior Care
  • Alpha One
  • Independent Transportation Network
  • AARP Maine
  • Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce
  • Portland Downtown

We also recognize our collaboration with Portland Parks and Recreation. New connections are being made all the time, as word spreads that Age Friendly is coming to Portland.

Strategies that have contributed to your success? Barriers you have encountered?

Challenging to get this effort off the ground with no additional staff and little funds. Important to energize the community and continually engage volunteers, professionals, and citizens who are passionate about aging issues and the creation of a more livable community for people of all ages.

One example of a successful effort was deciding to sponsor an Age Friendly Portland Summit in June 2015. The general concept was laid out for potential stakeholders as a way to educate about age-friendly work that is already going on around the country and in Maine. This is where many of the steering committee members were "recruited" as they expressed an interest in
further involvement with Portland's age friendly work.

In June 2017, we held an Age-Friendly Community Summit where we shared our work plan with community members. We invited older citizens so they could get involved and be recruited volunteers to work on the initiatives they were interested in. We were able to recruit 16-18 volunteers from this event.

Types of funding that your initiative has received

Small grant and donation from AARP.

Community Initiatives

Transportation

Focused on making sure people can get around safely and easily (sidewalks and intersections) and have information about the various modes of transportation available in Portland.

We are working with Independent Transportation Network to help them increase the number of volunteers transportation drivers for their Road Scholarship Program. This program provides transportation for older adults who don't drive. The volunteer drivers earn miles and can donate their miles to a client of their choice, or contribute to a fund of a city or town to accumulate. That way, if there are low-income older adults in the community, they can receive free rides through the fund. We are helping Independent Transportation Network by recruiting more volunteer drivers in Portland to provide more affordable transportation for older adults in our community.

Chores, Handyman & Upkeep

One of the 4 domains our group chose was housing. The housing sub-committee is approaching this issue by identifying ways to help keep seniors in their homes and living independently for as long as possible. We have supported and helped to facilitate the creation of Portland Area Villages. Villages is a 501(c)(3). This organization has volunteers and staff who provide services to older residents in the Portland area to assist with chores, transportation, errands, handyman services, etc. Our relationship is a collaboration, where we can send referrals to them and vice versa.

Health & Wellness

Durable Medical Equipment Loan Program: Informal medical equipment loan program available through the Office of Elder Affairs and Barron Center.

Outreach & Resource Information

"Information" and "health and community services" were combined into one sub-group. We learned in the community assessment survey and focus groups that the Portland area has a lot to offer in terms of services, but people don't always know how/where to access them.

We are currently working on our Resource Guide, which will be a tool for older residents in Portland to utilize as a way to be aware of what resources and services are available to them in their community. AARP will assist us in printing 100 copies the Resource Guide, with an updated version every 2 years to put in libraries, senior centers, etc. The Resource Guide will also be featured on the City of Portland’s website.

Age Friendly Portland has developed an Age Friendly Business and Organization Program. This program assesses local businesses and organizations to determine whether or not they are age friendly. We have created an application and checklist for businesses and organizations to fill out, and then members of our steering committee conduct a site visit to identify if they meet the criteria for an age friendly business. Once a business passes their inspection, they get a certificate that deems them to be “age friendly.” They also receive a decal that can be displayed in their window to let older residents or tourists know this is an age friendly establishment. So far, this program has inspected seven businesses.

Accessibility & Walkability

Snow Shoveling for Seniors

Snow Shoveling for Seniors is a vital service aimed at those 65 and older who are unable or cannot afford a service to shovel their steps and sidewalks directly outside their homes, both for safety and compliance with city code. To keep this program alive, we recruited volunteers to connect with those who need a little shoveling assistance following snowfall. Volunteers clear the front door area, pathway and immediate sidewalk of the front of the property. Volunteers are not expected to clear or shovel anything else, including cars, driveways, rear stairways etc.

Portland's city-wide seniors shoveling program is coordinated by community. While Age Friendly Portland can't always guarantee the service, each of Portland's neighborhoods is working hard to build a network of volunteers to help older residents get the snow away from their door and off their steps. We are currently trying to expand this program by adding more neighborhoods to the list to recruit volunteers and volunteer coordinators. We are looking to reach out to local high schools and colleges as well. Right now we have eight neighborhoods with volunteers and coordinators.

Age Friendly Portland is in support of the Fix It program through the Public Works, which allows residents to send a message on their phone to Public Works if they see a pothole, crack in the sidewalk, a traffic light out, etc. Someone will be sent to fix those issues because of their message. Along with this, we support AARP’s Walk-On app. This is an app for your phone that allows individuals to report different things they may see in their neighborhoods. It acts as a way to advocate for older adult and issues that exist for them to get around.

Communication

Mostly web-based, but working on distribution to libraries, community centers, senior housing sites, etc.

Along with our Resource Guide, we hope to develop our own Age Friendly Portland website in the future.

Region

Contact

Linda Weare
Director, Chair of Steering Committee
Portland Office of Elder Affairs
PO Box 3413, Portland, ME 04004
agefriendlycommunity@portlandmaine.gov
207-541-6620