At the end of June, the AARP released the award winners of its sixth AARP Community Challenge; an annual contest aimed at jump-starting improvements to make communities throughout the U.S. more livable for people of all ages and mobility levels.
The program received 3,200 applications from nonprofits and government entities from which AARP selected 260 projects to receive a portion of the $3.4 million available.
“Helping adults thrive as they age has never been more important, and AARP is dedicated to working with communities to improve residents’ quality of life through tangible changes. This year, we are proud to support the largest number of projects in the AARP Community Challenge’s six-year history to help communities leverage opportunities with historic federal investments,” said AARP Executive Vice President and Chief Advocacy and Engagement Officer Nancy LeaMond.
Each of the projects to receive funds achieved one of several outcomes, including a group of projects that deliver a range of transportation and mobility options to increase connectivity, walkability, bikeability, wayfinding, access to transportation options and roadway improvements.
In Minneapolis, Minn., the city’s public works mobility team will use its $32,000 grant to increase safety, accessibility and comfort at mobility hubs and add community ambassadors focused on helping older adults interact with, learn about and provide feedback on mobility hubs. Additionally, the funds will cover the cost of installing new seating, projectors and signage to make the mobility hubs at North Market, 44th and Humboldt; and Lake Street and Chicago Avenue more welcoming, safer and easier to navigate.
In addition to Minneapolis, the list of mobility-focused projects to receive AARP funds include:
Phoenix and Scottsdale, Ariz.: Elaine
Transportation to medical appointments, job and housing interviews, the grocery store and similar destinations will be provided to hundreds of the most vulnerable members of the two communities.
Miami-Dade County, Fla.: Transit Alliance Miami
The My Transit My City project will offer lessons and technical support to older adults and people with disabilities about how to use the county’s redesigned bus system.
Columbus, Ga.: METRA Transit System
Four two-person, porch-type swings will be installed at the city bus station on newly created beds of wood chips for safety.
LaGrange, Ga.: West Georgia STAR
A shuttle service will be created, operating 6 a.m. to 5 p.m., in this rural community with no formal public transportation system nor access to ride-sharing services such as Lyft or Uber.
Chicago and surrounds, Ill.: The SafeLIGHT Foundation
A new program will provide taxi and ride-sharing services to older adults in need of transportation assistance.
Floyd County, Ind.: Blue River Services, Inc.
Grant funds will help expand on-demand transportation services for older adults and people with disabilities.
Perry, Iowa: Heart of Iowa Regional Transit Agency (HIRTA)
ADA-compliant benches will be installed at city bus stops, and improved signage (including bilingual signs at designated stops) will be instituted throughout the system. Free rides will be given to passengers who are participating in a local health study.
Westport, Mass.: Westport Council on Aging
A fixed-route transportation service for older adults will be established, operating one day per week between common shopping, banking and medical destinations in this rural community.
Duluth, Minn.: Duluth Age-Friendly and Ecolibrium3
Teams of participants will design solutions that will make the city more age friendly. Areas of focus will include housing, transportation and more.
McLeod County, Minn.: Mid-Minnesota Development Commission
Transit tokens will be distributed to older adults and disabled people in residential facilities, and childcare providers will receive passes allowing them to take children in their care to such facilities, promoting intergenerational contact.
Minneapolis, Minn.: City of Minneapolis
The network of “mobility hubs” — spots around town that aid travelers — will be bolstered with improved signage and seating, and local ambassadors will be hired to educate residents about their use.
St. Louis County, Mo.: Citizens for Modern Transit
Accessible seating, a UV-protective shade and a mural examining local history will be installed at the North Hanley Transit Center.
Bismarck, Lincoln and Mandan, ND: Bis-Man Transit Board
Videos to teach residents about the transit system, including fixed-route service, will be produced and used during transit workshops.
Franklin County, Ohio: Bhutanese Community of Central Ohio
Bhutanese refugee women will be taught how to access libraries, parks and public transportation.
Toledo, Ohio: CommunityCare Clinics (CCC)
A bus stop near the clinic will be upgraded with a bench and shelter. Ride-sharing arrangements will also be improved with a new partnership, and bike racks will be installed at the clinic.
Philadelphia, Pa.: Utility Emergency Services Fund
Transportation via rideshare and public transit will be provided to older adults going to Oak Street Health locations.
Middle Rio Grande Region, Texas: Southwest Area Regional Transit District
Training in how to become mobile and independent will be offered to older adults and disabled people.
Salt Lake City, Utah: Glendale Neighborhood Council
A transportation committee will be established within the Glendale Neighborhood Council to plot a course on issues related to transportation in Glendale and more.
Bainbridge Island, Wash.: Bainbridge Island Senior/Community Center
This will test the value of a collaborative transportation web, blending volunteer and contracted drivers, to create an effective system for older adults and the community at large.