LARAMIE -- Laramie was the third city in Wyoming to join AARP’s national network of age-friendly cities this month after an effort led by groups within the community with the goal of making Laramie accessible and affordable to its senior residents.
Dr. Bernard Steinman, research director at the Wyoming Center on Aging and an assistant professor at the University of Wyoming, said it was important to think about issues seniors in the community face since the demographic is growing larger each generation.
“Like most places in the United States, the demographic changes that are on the horizon are also going to affect Laramie, so we’re going to have lots and lots more older people than we currently have,” Steinman said. “We know that one of the goals of older people is to stay in their homes, and if they can’t stay in their homes then to stay in their communities. So, with the aging population, we really want to make a community that people can stay in, where they can stay near their friends and their families. We don’t want people to have to move for lack of other options.”
“I think ultimately what it does is that it engages sort of a grassroots network that’s trying to figure out how to make Laramie a little more age friendly, which interestingly enough also tends to offer positive impacts for other segments of the population of Laramie,” said Tom Lacock, the associate state director of communication and advocacy for AARP Wyoming.
Steinman agreed, saying a lot of different people were involved in helping to earn the designation and providing input about what they’d like to see improved around the city.
“These are people who are very active in the community and are really interested in staying in the community, so I would say it’s definitely sort of a grassroots movement,” Steinman said. “As of now, we want to include as many stakeholders as we can in the future because there’s room for everybody to be a part of this. … If you improve visibility for someone who is 80 years old, it improves the lives of everybody.”
Many different members of the community worked on the initiative to earn the recognition, including Wyoming Center on Aging, the Eppson Center for Seniors and Foster Grandparents of the Wyoming Rockies. Lacock said every community is different, and each one shapes their age-friendly community a different way.
“The really interesting thing I’ve enjoyed is these really become local programs,” Lacock said. “In no way shape or form is this AARP projecting what they say should happen; this is all local groups that make local decisions and ultimately produce very local solutions when they see there are some areas for improvement.”
Still in the planning stage, Steinman said he’s excited to start working with various committees to think of solutions to the issues community members raised during various public forums over the summer. The biggest concerns included access to transportation, affordable housing and community engagement. However, Steinman said any proposed solutions will be both big and small, so they won’t be financially burdensome.
Laramie is the third city in Wyoming to receive the recognition, along with Casper and Jackson. Lacock said many of the problems brought up in Laramie, including access to transportation, are a problem across the state.
“Those are not unique to Laramie,” Lacock said. “Transportation is one that in Casper has been brought up a few times … specifically around medical appointments or release from the hospital. That’s one [issue] that — in Wyoming anyway — has shown itself to be very common.”
The Laramie City Council celebrated the achievement during its Oct. 3 meeting, where councilmembers accepted the certificate of recognition from AARP’s Wyoming office. Lacock said he’s loved watching how the program takes new shape based on each local community.
“AARP will support where and when we can,” Lacock said. “But the community grabs ahold of this age friendly community designation, sets up their committees to have the conversations and begins to set up solutions that are right for their community specifically. It’s fantastic to watch the local community really take control of its future.”
For more news from the Laramie Boomerang, visit https://www.laramieboomerang.com/.