Implementing Age Friendly Strategies in Southwest New Hampshire
- February 7, 2022
- Public Health
Did you know that population trend data shows that rate of growth in Southwest New Hampshire has slowed since 1970 and has levelled off over the past two decades? And, population projections indicate the region is projected to grow considerably less than the State as a whole. The region faces other demographic challenges as well. All age groups have experienced a decline in the amount of socializing; individuals under the age of 25 and over 65 pay considerably more than others on transportation costs; and, cost-burdened households contribute to very low rental vacancy rates for affordable homes.
Age-friendly communities are designed to address the needs of residents of all ages. Through support from Point 32 Health Foundation (formerly the Tufts Health Plan Foundation), Southwest Region Planning Commission and Cheshire Medical Center have partnered to implement this approach to improve access to transportation, housing options, economic opportunities and community services. The effort will also involve coordination activities for broadband connectivity and other emerging health issues as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic.
This work is in response to changing demographics in Southwest New Hampshire. Trends indicate a decline in residents of working age and a population of those aged 65 and over that is growing faster than any other age group. Census data indicates that over 80% of the Region’s municipalities have a median age exceeding that of the State.— Terry Johnson, Senior Project Manager with Southwest Region Planning Commission
- A project of Cheshire Medical Center and Southwest Region Planning Commission to increase economic opportunities, housing options, social connections, and transportation alternatives for older and younger adults in Southwest New Hampshire.
- The project is supported by funding from the Point32 Plan Foundation.
An Age-Focused Planning in Southwest New Hampshire Study completed in 2020 revealed demographic shifts that will have significant regional and local level implications on housing, transportation, economy, and community vitality:
- The 65+ population is growing faster than any other age group.
- Youth and residents of working age populations are declining.
- The number of children under the age of 15 decreased by 14% between 2000 and 2010.
The Implementing Age-Friendly Strategies in Southwest New Hampshire project aims to improve access to transportation, housing options, economic opportunities, and vital community services for older and younger adults in Southwest New Hampshire.
- Increase regional and local capacity to provide a variety of transportation options to places people want and need to go, such as medical appointments, shopping, employment, cultural events, and recreation.
- Increase opportunities for people to be socially connected.
- Increase community participation and understanding of community transportation and ways to address social isolation.
- Increase education of municipal and state officials on the need for public transportation services and funding options.
- Increase use of land-use and zoning tools to create healthier more vibrant communities.
- Increase community and citizen emergency preparedness including response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
There are many ways you can be involved in the project and creating a more welcoming community and region for all ages:
- Start a dialogue with local and regional partners about implementation priorities and resources.
- Connect with other communities developing and implementing Age-Focused action plans.
- Reach out to SWRPC staff for resources to assist you with the development and implementation of your local action plan.
Since the beginning of the project, SWRPC has convened a cohort of six communities interested in making their communities more age-friendly from a variety of perspectives. Thus far, Hinsdale, Jaffrey, Swanzey, Walpole, Westmoreland and Winchester have developed strategic plans to further objectives:
The Town of Hinsdale highlighted opportunities to implement Age-Friendly strategies in two theme areas: Social Engagement and Transportation. Goals included expanding access to the Millstream Community Center and increasing transit services to support people to access essential services and social engagement opportunities.
The Town of Jaffrey is currently pursuing activities in the theme areas of Housing Options and Economic Opportunities. Goals include identifying obstacles to building intergenerational, mixed-income housing and filling empty downtown store fronts.
Swanzey is actively working on strategies across three theme areas: Transportation Alternatives, Social Engagement, and Housing Options. Goals of these efforts will include multi-modal transportation options, programming/activities for seniors, and expanded housing options.
The Town of Walpole is actively working in two theme areas: Housing Options and Transportation. Goals of their work will included expanded housing options to help residents stay in town as they age as well as expanded transportation options.
The Town of Westmoreland is focused on two project theme areas: Economic Development and Housing Options. Over the course of the project, the Town will seek to promote economic growth and update Zoning and Planning Board regulations.
The Town of Winchester will focus on two theme areas: Housing Options and Social Engagement. Goals of their work will included expanded housing options in Winchester and the integration of activities to improve social engagement.
How can you start to go about this work in your own community? Southwest Region Planning Commission (SWRPC) developed the Implementing Age-Friendly Strategies in Southwest New Hampshire Communities Resource Guide in 2021 as a tool for Southwest New Hampshire communities interested in making their communities more age-friendly for people of all ages. It is intended as a general guide that municipalities, citizens, community groups, and other stakeholders can use to make their communities more inclusive, welcoming, supportive, and healthy for people of all ages.
The Guide includes helpful information for communities to: 1) build a community coalition to plan and implement age-friendly interventions; 2) identify community needs and strategies to address them; 3) develop an action plan; 4) implement and evaluate interventions and community coalition effectiveness; 5) conduct community outreach to inform the community about project interventions and progress; and, 6) additional helpful resources for becoming an age-friendly community.