NHARPC CORNER: Becoming Age-Friendly in Southern New Hampshire Communities Should be Designed for Ages 8 to 80

Sylvia Von Aulock, Executive Director; Adam Hlasny, Transportation Planner; and Cam Prolman, Associate Planner; Southern New Hampshire Planning Commission

What would an Age-Friendly Community look like, what sort of services would be available, and how would residents of all ages be able to enjoy that community to its fullest? These are the sorts of questions that staff at Southern NH Planning Commission (SNHPC) is asking their fourteen communities within the Manchester area.

In 2016, SNHP received funding through the Tufts Health Plan Foundation, NHDOT, AARP, and others to conduct age-friendly assessments in each community. These assessments sought to raise awareness and examine assets, opportunities, and roadblocks of quality of life for both seniors and millennials. We heard stories from young and old; people from the rural roads of Francestown and folks new to the Manchester urban area. We heard stories that illustrate the needs of these seemingly differing generations. Stories like: I just retired and I have no idea what I’m going to do. There are no housing or transportation options in my town. What will I do when I can’t drive anymore? I don’t want to be isolated, but I still want to live in the town where I watched my family grow up.

On the same tone, coming from a younger generation, we heard concerns like: “If you don’t drive, you can’t exist in this town.” Many shared that affordable housing was difficult to find, or that rural communities had little to attract millennials, especially good paying jobs.

Chart: What is Your Biggest Concern as You Age?

  • Transportation was residents’ top concern. Generally speaking, seniors were concerned with being unable to get around when they can no longer drive themselves, and millennials desired transportation options. Walkable, bike-able neighborhoods were something all generations desired, but that are currently lacking in nearly all of SNHPC’s towns.
  • During the community assessments and the resident survey, many people claimed that there is not enough diversity in housing choices in their respective communities. Regardless of age, a common concern was in finding affordable housing, especially in rural communities. The more urban and larger suburban towns like Manchester, Goffstown and Derry tend to have more housing diversity and zoning which allows for more densely-built housing. Still, most seniors want to age-in-place but are concerned on multiple levels about how they might manage it.
  • There is no shortage of recreation opportunities in the region. Many residents find enjoyment in the region’s many walking or snowmobile trails such as those along Lake Massabesic in Auburn or Uncanoonuc Trail in Goffstown. Many town libraries and parks and recreation departments provide opportunities for residents of all ages to participate in unique programming for all ages. Common roadblocks described included not knowing what was going on in town, especially once kids were out of the school system, not enough venues or room for expansion, and no senior center or place to connect with friends.
  • Most communities in the SNHPC region feel there are a lack of businesses and employment opportunities. Existing businesses may want to ask themselves, how is our business catering to the growing senior population? Furthermore, how are we attracting young talent to work in our industries? SNHPC is very interested in creating an age-friendly business network that considers accessibility and amenity elements as well as utilizing talents from both populations to grow local businesses.

Then next phase of SNHPC’s Becoming Age-Friendly Program is underway, and the staff at SNHPC is hoping that the communities in their region and the state are interested. SNHPC has funding to assist three communities and ten local businesses to create age-friendly strategic plans that will address actions to improve transportation, accessibility, housing, engagement and other elements that would assist the community in becoming age-friendly. If you’d like more information, please contact us, or check out the work of some of our partner organizations, who know a thing or two about healthy aging:

EngAGING NH: Learn about current issues important to older adults, subscribe to the FREE newsletter for monthly updates, or join and attend a committee on aging in your area

The NH Alliance for Healthy Aging (AHA): This is a statewide coalition of stakeholders focused on the health and well-being of older adults in NH. NH AHA currently has participation from over 170 organizations within the state.

AARP: The AARP Network of Age-Friendly Communities encourages states, cities, towns and counties to prepare for the rapid aging of the US population by paying increased attention to the environmental, economic, and social factors that influence the health and well-being of older adults.

For much more information and detailed Phase I findings, including colorful and intriguing charts, please visit: http://www.snhpc.org/?page=granite_state To roll up your sleeves and work with us, please contact Sylvia von Aulock at 603-669-4664 or svonaulock@snhpc.org.