How are Age-Friendly Communities formed? Portland State University’s Institute On Aging’s plays a key role. Research Associate Dr. Alan DeLaTorre explains.

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Ageism in an on-going issue many older people face.  However, many studies prove common conceptions about older people wrong.  Dr. Alan DeLaTorre, Research Associate at Portland State University, focuses on how age-friendly actions and policies are shaped.

Portland, Oregon is recognized as an early adopter for age-friendly practices. These are practices that aim to create communities that work for those of all ages and abilities.  The World Health Organization (WHO) conducted its Global Age-Friendly Research project in 2002.  Portland was the only U.S. city that joined the project at that time.  Later, WHO invited applicants from around the world to join the Global Network of Age-Friendly Communities.  Again, Portland was among the first cities to join.

Eight Domains of Age-Friendliness

There are eight domains that communities across the world are aiming to address. These efforts are supported by WHO and AARP coordinates efforts in the U.S.  Those eight domains fall broadly into three environments: physical, social, and service.  The economic focus is specifically addressed in Portland by a very active Employment and Economy Committee of which Jackie B Peterson is a member.  The Committee focuses on perceptions of older workers, people starting businesses at an older age, and older customers. This committee also sponsors the annual Age Friendly and Age Smart Awards competition. As an example of ageism, Dr. DeLaTorre detailed a conversation from a committee meeting that focused on misplaced customer support:

“Imagine an older person and a younger person shopping at a store such as Best Buy. The sales people gravitate toward the younger person, even though the spending power of the older person is likely greater.” This common inter action displays ageism at work. The older person is not perceived to be as good a customer even though they, in fact, have more money to spend. Such misconceptions happen again and again.

With respect to the older workers, DeLaTorre offered the following comments, “Older workers have a solid knowledge base, strong work ethic, and are healthy.  More businesses are started by people in their 50s and 60s than any other age group. Again, this is not the common perception.”

Dr. DeLaTorre and Dr. Margaret Neal’s presentation titled “The Case for Age-Friendly Communities” reports traditional career trajectories and retirement patterns are changing.  Approximately nine million people aged 44 to 70 started “encore” careers in the second half of life.  They use their passions, skills, and work experience to improve communities and the world.

Highlights from a report Drs. Neal and DeLaTorre wrote on Portland’s age-friendliness (2007) include:
Age-Friendly Barriers
  • Availability of affordable housing /li>
  • Accessible/appropriate housing
  • Ability to age in place/community
  • Public participation among certain groups (minorities, low-income)
  • Disconnect between levels of government and services
  • Access to garden space for people in multi-family housing
At the same time, Age-Friendly Features are:
  • Natural features and green spaces
  • Educational opportunities for older adults
  • Transportation systems meet the needs of an aging population
  • Some areas of Portland provide good access to an array of services
  • Respect and inclusion of older adults (Honored Citizens)

If you want to learn more about age-friendly communities, go to:
Portland and Multnomah County’s Age-friendly page:

The World Health Organization Age-Friendly Cities Project in Portland, Oregon, USA:
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