Workshop focuses on creating living spaces for seniors

GREENFIELD — Discussions on revitalizing downtown Greenfield have centered on ways to draw young families to Hancock County, but local officials say it’s just as important to ensure the area is safe and welcoming to senior citizens who have already made Greenfield their home.

To launch discussions about how Greenfield can improve for its oldest residents, the city is hosting a webinar next week that’s open to the public.

The webinar, shown in council chambers at city hall from 10 to 11:30 a.m. Nov. 17, is called “Aging in Place: Creating Senior-Friendly Communities.” The webinar will focus on improving quality of life for residents of all ages — but especially seniors.

The program, hosted by the Indiana Associations of Cities and Towns, will feature Dr. Phil Stafford of the Indiana University Bloomington Center on Aging and Community and John Marron of the Indiana University Public Policy Institute, who will discuss the economics of developing strategies and approaches for fostering age- and ability-friendly communities.

Aging in place is defined as the ability to live in one’s own home and community safely, independently and comfortably, regardless of age, income or ability level, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

City Planner Joanie Fitzwater said as officials work to bring new life to the downtown and plan for the city’s future, they also want to consider ways to make Greenfield a community residents can live in lifelong.

For years, officials have talked about making sidewalks ADA-compliant and safer for senior residents, Fitzwater said. And as the city moves toward making the community more walkable, it’s a good time to also consider how to make it safe for the city’s seniors, she said.

Organizers hope the workshop will spark discussions about immediate concerns, including whether sidewalks have trip hazards that need to be addressed, if there’s enough handicapped parking, as well as other factors that become detrimental as residents age, she said.

“It’s something that’s going to be very interesting to many people,” Fitzwater said. “It’s very exciting.”

Linda Hart, executive director of Hancock County Senior Services, said it’s important for the city to consider what it offers to the senior population. Her office works to help seniors live independently as long as possible. Having these discussions in the community will help make Greenfield friendlier for seniors and residents with disabilities, she said.

Hancock County already does a good job of helping people age in the community, but there’s always room for improvement, she said.

“What’s most important is they’re looking at the issue,” she said. “You can’t fix something you don’t know about.”

And improving the community for seniors will help improve it for all residents, she said.

“If a community is good for a senior or people with disabilities, it’s also good for a young mom who is pushing a child in a stroller,” she said. “We want to make sure our seniors and individuals with disabilities can ebb and flow and go throughout our community in a seamless way.”

Dean McFarland, a board member of the Central Indiana Council on Aging, said 90 percent of seniors want to age in their homes and community and don’t want to have to be moved to a nursing facility.

Because that number is so high, it’s important for the community to have discussions about how it can make that possible, he said.

“People have a lot of emotional ties to the house they spent many years in,” he said. Moving to another facility creates a lot of anxiety, … that’s not exciting for most seniors.”

The webinar is open to all residents; for more information, call Fitzwater at 317-325-1329.

If you go

A webinar, “Aging in Place: Creating Senior-Friendly Communities,” will be shown in council chambers at city hall from 10 to 11:30 a.m. Nov. 17. It is free and open to members of the public.

For more information, call 317-325-1329.

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Samm Quinn is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3275 or squinn@greenfieldreporter.com.