Cranston has become the second city in Rhode Island to join the AARP Network of Age-Friendly States and Communities.
“Your progress in Cranston is reverberating across the state … We want to be another push in the direction of an age-friendly Rhode Island. This is how we get there, one community at a time,” state Office of Healthy Aging Director Rosamaria Amoros Jones said during a press conference to announce the designation Sept. 26 at the Cranston Enrichment Center.
“Today’s a really exciting day … because as everyone here knows, Cranston’s one of the best places to live in America. And it starts right here with all of you,” Mayor Allan Fung said.
He added: “Today is another part of that commitment that we are making as a city … It’s a commitment by all of our different city department, all of our community partners, continuing to meet your needs and our residents’ needs as we grow older in this great city.”
The city applied for its designation as an ARRP “Age-Friendly Community,” according to a press release, and it was recognized for its new status the day after Newport.
The AARP Network “helps participating communities become great places for people of all ages by adopting features such as safe, walkable streets; better housing and transportation options; access to key services; and opportunities for residents to participate in civic and community activities,” the release reads.
The network specifically “targets improvements in eight domains that influence the health and quality of life for all as we age,” according to the release. Those eight areas of focus include 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.
The release states that participating communities “commit to improving their livability through an assessment of needs, development of an action plan, implementation of new projects and programs, and ongoing assessment – all with the involvement of older residents.”
“As the latest community to sign on to the network, Cranston’s civic leaders will have access to global resources and information on age-friendly best practices, models of assessment and implementation, and the experiences of towns and cities around the world,” the release continues.
Jeff Barone, executive director of the Cranston Department of Senior Services, said Assistant Senior Services Director David Quiroa “took the helm” on the application for membership in the AARP network. The center’s membership and staff, he said, have “put their heart and soul into this project.”
Quiroa noted that the Department of Senior Services is currently involved in a grant-funded project through the Tufts Health Foundation focused on memory loss issues and making Cranston a dementia-friendly community. The department is currently seeking a second year of funding for the program.
“That’s really what opened the door to us becoming certified, not only at the national level but at the international level … We’re joining a very, very prominent club,” he said.
Kathleen Connell, Rhode Island state director for AARP, called the Cranston Enrichment Center a “really special place.” She presented Fung with a plaque in recognition of the city’s membership in the network.
“It was amazing to see how fast Cranston got its act together, put its application in and is ready to go. I think you may have the world record on that,” she said, drawing applause from those present.
Amoros Jones said initiatives like the dementia-friendly community project and membership in the AARP network will provide valuable insights into how her office can “invest smarter and better” going forward. The ultimate objective, she said, is to foster an environment in which Rhode Islanders can access vital resources – such as safe and affordable housing, nutritional needs and health services – as they age.
“That’s the Rhode Island I want to live in, and that’s where Cranston is leading … We’re ready to roll up our sleeves and help in any way,” she said.
After the release, Cranston Enrichment Center members were invited to complete a survey that will be used as part of the AARP network project. Those who completed the survey were entered into a raffle for gift cards.