Dr. Kathy Black is optimistic about age-friendly improvements.

USFSM professor: Sarasota Co. becoming more age-friendly

By: Rich Shopes

Posted: October 25, 2018

SARASOTA, Fla. (Oct. 25, 2018) – USF Sarasota-Manatee Professor Kathy Black says there’s “much to celebrate” as Sarasota County takes steps to become a healthier place for people of all ages.

The gerontologist and principal investigator of Age-Friendly Sarasota delivered a report to county commissioners two weeks ago that noted progress on several fronts to make Sarasota safer, healthier and more enjoyable for people across their lifespans. The publication cites improvement in eight areas of “livability” highlighted in an action plan created with residents’ input and released in 2016.

“It has been an honor to work within a community that already has been serving people of every age for so long,” Dr. Black said. “As you will see documented in the report, there is much to celebrate. Age-friendly progress is evident throughout our governmental programs and policies, and also via the services and practices of our businesses and nonprofit organizations.”

The report is the latest development in an effort launched three years ago when Sarasota joined the World Health Organization’s global network of age-friendly cities and communities.

The following year, Dr. Black produced an assessment of age-friendly goals with input from government officials, businesses, nonprofits and residents. She’s worked since then to promote the goals through Age-Friendly Sarasota; her report reflects progress made in achieving them through Dec. 31, 2017.

Dr. Black says the report documents a range of age-friendly developments, from new health and wellness programs at libraries and community centers to a county resolution that urges builders to include age-friendly features in new houses, like easy-to-use door knobs, shower grab bars and higher wall sockets.

Some of the changes were simple and inexpensive – but nevertheless innovative. One, called a Mobility Mat, was implemented by parks officials. Similar to a hallway runner, it enables people with wheelchairs, walkers and strollers to visit Siesta Key Beach.

“It allows easy access to get closer to the water,” she said.

The report highlights many such changes as awareness grows around age-friendly issues. Education is the key, she said.

“It’s a work in process, and education is a big part of it. People are still being made aware of the many ways all of us can work together to help achieve an age-friendly community,” Dr. Black said.

The progress report includes a 32-page summary and 54-page appendix that describes actions related to each domain goal. To view the report, visit www.agefriendlysarasota.org or contact Dr. Black at kblack@sar.usf.edu.

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