The year 2019 marked the third year of the Salem for All Ages initiative, a coordinated effort to make Salem more age-friendly across a wide variety of areas – from housing to transportation to civic engagement and more.
The work of the initiative is guided by an action plan, approved in late 2016, the first of its kind on the North Shore and implemented in 2017 by a task force of 14 volunteers, city employees and representatives of community organizations.
As the task force prepares to enter the fourth year of its work, it is worth reflecting on the accomplishments achieved to date.
The initiative launched a social media presence and began publishing a resource guide, available at salemforallages.org and also mailed out monthly to every Salem resident when they turn 65. It also is collaborating with The Salem News on this monthly series of columns about age-friendly topics.
On the transportation front, we received a $30,000 grant from the Tufts Health Plan Foundation to determine the feasibility of a shuttle system in Salem. As a result of this study and further research, the task force is working with city staff to issue two exciting requests for proposals: one for an on-demand city shuttle service and the second for a community car share. Both programs will move from planning to reality in the year ahead.
The task force’s housing committee has been deeply engaged with the city’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund and the Salem Housing Authority to expand access to housing for seniors and opportunities for physical projects to create more affordable senior housing in Salem.
When it comes to social participation and inclusion efforts, the initiative has launched the Age-Friendly Business certification for Salem businesses. It also initiated an intergenerational Book Buddy program in partnership with the Salem YMCA and Salem State University students are interacting with seniors at the CLC as part of their First Year Seminar experience.
The Salem For All Ages infrastructure and public spaces team was an integral part of the city’s efforts to update its Americans with Disabilities Act Transition Plan. Now that the draft plan is complete, public feedback is being gathered before it is finalized and, in the coming years, the initiative will work with the city to implement the plan’s recommendations.
In terms of health and wellness, the initiative expanded the monthly senior food pantry at the Community Life Center, increasing registered participation by 57%. It worked with the Community Life Center and Salem police to launch “Are You OK?,” an automated well-being check-in phone call for subscribing seniors and their families. The task force is working closely with AARP/Massachusetts to expand needed programming for seniors. For example, 91% say they want to age in place but most homes are not equipped for people to do this. So, at 10 a.m. Wednesday, Jan. 8, at the Mayor Jean Levesque Community Life Center, a Home Fit presentation based on AARP’s Home Fit Guide will offer smart solutions for making your home comfortable and safe. The seminar is free and all are welcome.
For the last three years, Salem for All Ages has become integrated into the daily efforts of Salem’s nonprofit community partners and city departments, striving to make Salem more welcoming, accessible and enjoyable for people of all ages and abilities. Those efforts will continue in 2020. We invite you to learn more and discover how you can age strong here in Salem, by visiting www.salemforallages.org.
Dominick Pangallo and Patricia Zaido are co-chairs of the Salem For All Ages Task Force.