Evanston looks to build ‘age-friendly’ community


Jennifer Ball/The Daily Northwestern

Senior services manager Christina Ferraro speaks about the launch of the “Age Friendly Evanston!” initiative. Informational meetings are being held this week.

Jennifer Ball, Reporter

The city is holding meetings at the Levy Senior Center and Fleetwood-Jourdain Community Center this week to kick off a five-year process of making Evanston an “age-friendly” community.

The first meeting was held Saturday at the senior center, 300 Dodge Ave.

The five-year process will focus on data collection, development of an action plan and implementation of the three-year blueprint, said Christina Ferraro, the city’s senior services manager.

Ferraro, also manager of the senior center, is working with Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl and city manager Wally Bobkiewicz on the initiative.

At the meeting Tuesday evening, Ferraro said Tisdahl has told her she does not want to grow old in a retirement home.

“I share her sentiment,” Beverly Shearer, 66, said.

Shearer moved to Evanston in 2008 when her husband passed away. She is now a retired Sunday school teacher.

Although she said she thinks the initiative is helpful, she thinks it could have begun earlier.

“If they had started sooner, they may have had more participation and more ideas,” she said.

Ferraro said currently 12 percent of Evanston is over the age of 65. Within a decade, that number will increase to 25 percent.

The survey about satisfaction with senior services launched on Saturday along with informational meetings that kicked off the initiative.

The official results of the survey will not be out until next month. However, Ferraro said so far almost all people in Evanston reported knowing about the senior center, though only 3 percent said they use it.

The city is working with the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Global Network of Age-Friendly Cities and Communities program. The World Health Organization defines an age-friendly city as an “inclusive and accessible urban environment that … optimizes opportunities for health, participation and security.”

WHO has eight age-friendly standards: outdoor spaces and buildings, transportation, housing, social participation, respect and social inclusion, civic participation and employment, communication and information, and community support and health services.

Ferraro said that the main issues seniors in Evanston are facing are housing and transportation.

“We’re just trying to be proactive facing the changing demographics,” Ferraro told the Daily.

One way the city will prepare for the demographic shift is by linking other city plans such as the walkability plan to fix broken sidewalks under the age-friendly initiative.

Another way the city will assist residents to age in the community is by hosting focus groups or round table discussions to get more feedback on senior services.

Tisdahl will select nine people to serve on a task force which will develop an age-friendly action plan and see it through the three-year implementation period.

“They are doing it. That is what is important,” said Pete De Jong, a 62-year-old Evanston resident.

“They are opening it up early enough for people to get involved,” he added.

Ferraro said that the challenge lies in finding residents who want to participate.

“The residents’ voices really need to be heard,” she said.

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