Working To Become An “Inclusive” Community

Posted by – Stephanie Carroll, Manager of Business Development & Community Relations

In 2012, Auburn Hills began engaging in Age-Friendly planning initiatives.  The journey has been an amazing experience and we’ve been able to create meaningful relationships with the residents in our community through this process.

Yesterday, at the Council of Michigan Foundations gathering, Mayor Kevin McDaniel outlined all the work done to date by staff, Planning Commission and City Council.  I can say that this has been a tremendous team effort.

The question on everyone’s mind yesterday is why do we need age-friendly communities?  In order to prepare for these demographic changes, Auburn Hills enrolled in the AARP Age-Friendly Network in 2013.  Auburn Hills was the first municipality from the State of Michigan to be accepted into this prestigious and growing network.

This program was key to changing our thinking.  It involved an assessment of the community, the creation of an action plan, and eventually implementation of the plan and finally an evaluation of its performance.

Along with Mayor William R. Wild of Westland, Mayor McDaniel outlined the policies and priorities communities are building upon that will continue to make Auburn Hills a desirable and inclusive community in which to live, work and play.

Auburn Hills Shares Age-Friendly Planning Experience

Posted by – Elizabeth Brennan, Executive Assistant

Planning for age-friendly communities has become a hot topic, sparking conversations across the country with the support of AARP, planning professionals and local government officials.

Group

Attendees gathered together for a photo after the workshop.

Closer to home, Oakland County’s Economic Development & Community Affairs Department held a workshop yesterday, where 45 local communities, organizations, and businesses learned what an age-friendly community looks like, the dramatic impact the aging population will have on our communities and why it is important to start planning now.

Steve Cohen presents information about the Auburn Hills Age-Friendly Program

Steve Cohen presents information about the Auburn Hills Age-Friendly Program

Steve Cohen, Director of Community Development was invited to present details of the Auburn Hills Age-Friendly planning program including community conversation events, lessons learned along the way and how the information collected led to an action plan.

Auburn Hills was honored to be part of the program as Oakland County’s Quality of Life Committee and the Area Agency on Aging 1-B promote and assist local efforts to create accommodating and desirable communities for all ages.

Going National

Posted by – Elizabeth Brennan, Executive Assistant

As the baby-boom generation ages, communities from all over the country are working to prepare for the changing needs of their residents.  In Auburn Hills, planning for accessible housing options, transportation needs and other enhanced services officially began in 2013 with the City’s acceptance into the AARP’s Age-Friendly Community Network.

Age-Friendly Auburn Hills program leaders, Karen Adcock, Director of Senior Services and Steve Cohen, Director of Community Development, presented an overview of our Age-Friendly program yesterday to a registered webinar audience of over 400 city managers, city planners and senior services professionals from around the country.

Both Auburn Hills and San Antonio, Texas were invited to share their experiences in developing Age-Friendly programs in their respective cities.  Both communities discussed the processes of engaging their residents through community events, turning gathered information into action plans and finding partners and volunteers in the community to fill needs that municipalities may not be able to fill.

Karen and Steve talking about the Age-Friendly program at a community meeting last year.

Karen and Steve speaking about the Age-Friendly program at a community meeting last year.

The webinar, hosted by the International City/County Management Association (ICMA) was designed to provide local governments with an overview of the AARP Network of Age-Friendly Communities and showcase how it has helped communities plan for the future.

Auburn Hills was honored to be selected for this opportunity.

Doing Nothing Is Not An Option

Posted by – Steve Cohen, Director of Community Development

Auburn Hills is at a crossroads.  A series of decisions will need to be made over the next few years to prepare our community for a silent change.  Like how a slow drip from a faucet (when left unchecked) will ultimately fill up a bucket, the number of aging Baby Boomers will gradually bring unprecedented service challenges for those who are not ready.

The numbers tell the story

The numbers tell the story

What’s the big deal?  Well, our town has been designed around the car.  Heck, we’re a critical employment hub hosting some of the largest automobile companies in the world.  In many areas, we have homes on large lots that are physically segregated from retail and service providers.  In other words, we have peaceful neighborhoods with homes designed for younger, larger families strategically planned and zoned to be located away from the noise and congestion of commercial and industrial areas.  That was (and we believe still is) the American Dream.

But, what happens when your town’s 75+ population almost quadruples in size?  What happens when the number of residents 65+ begin to exceed the number of children enrolled in school?   We know this change is coming to Auburn Hills over the next few decades.  We can’t put our heads in the sand and hope all goes well.  We must adjust.

Experts tell us that homes will need to be retrofitted for folks with physical limitations; some will need help mowing their lawns and shoveling snow; many more will outlive their driving ability, become isolated and have difficulty obtaining food and medicine … and the list goes on and on.  Understanding there will be a myriad of challenges, the City of Auburn Hills has decided it must act – doing nothing is not an option.   We’ll not be doing this alone.  AARP will assist and connect us with other communities working on the same mission.

Auburn Hills resident receiving a meal from a volunteer

Auburn Hills resident receiving a meal from a volunteer

We know that government can’t and shouldn’t do everything.  Big programs and big spending is not the answer.  Not for us.  Public-private partnerships need to be formed and cultivated, which will take time, effort, and a shared vision.  It’ll be a team effort and Auburn Hills stands ready to lead.

How?  Together, we will address the impacts of an aging population on our City’s land use, transportation system, housing stock, outdoor spaces, employment options, community support network, and health services.  Yes, it’ll be a challenge.  A fun one!

We ask you to join us in helping to determine what an Age-Friendly community should look like.  We need your input!

Mark your calendars and come to one of our community conversations, listed below.  All the meetings will start at 6:30 p.m.

  • Thursday, February 27 – Great Lakes Golf and Sports Complex – 3951 Joslyn Road
  • Tuesday, March 4 – Auburn Hills Christian Center – 2592 E. Walton
  • Wednesday, March 26 – Avondale R. Grant Graham Elementary – 2450 Old Salem Road
  • Tuesday, April 1 – North Auburn Hills Baptist Church – 3889 N. Squirrel Road
  • Wednesday, April 16 – Avondale High School – 2800 Waukegan

Also, check out our comprehensive Age Friendly Auburn Hills resource page (click here to view).

People of all ages are encouraged to get involved.  If you’re really busy, just come to one of the community conversation meetings and tell us what you think.   If you’re passionate about this issue, let us know and we’ll plug you into the project as a volunteer.

Come join us.  In partnership, we can make Auburn Hills a friendlier place for all.