Salem for All Ages

by Patricia Zaido

In almost four years Salem has made tremendous strides to encourage active aging, provide opportunities for good health, inclusion and security, and to become even more a place that improves the quality of life for all the people of Salem as they age.

In January 2017, Salem’s 5-year Age-Friendly Action Plan was approved by the World Health Organization and the AARP. Salem was the first municipality in Essex County, the third in Massachusetts, and just the 30th in the nation to achieve this recognition. Since 2017, a 14-person task force made up of City officials, nonprofit leaders, and community volunteers has worked on implementing this plan. The work below is a summary of just a few of the key projects that have come through the Salem for All Ages initiative.

Peabody Essex Museum

In an effort to improve communication for older residents, the Salem for All Ages Resource Guide was created and sent to all Salem residents 60 years and older. The guide is now sent to all residents as they turn 60. A website – salemforallages.org – has been published and includes information on transportation, living well, aging in place resources, volunteerism opportunities, events and activities for all, and an electronic version of the Resource Guide. It is regularly updated and is an excellent reference for all happenings in Salem. Please visit it often.

The City received a $30,000 grant from the Tufts Health Plan Foundation to determine if a shuttle bus system is feasible for Salem. The study is complete and a pilot program for the shuttle is in place and will begin soon. In September 2018 a transportation fair was held at the Community Life City and representatives from 10 transportation agencies, such as the Salem Ferry, MBTA, bike share, were present, explained options available to older adults in need of transportation, and answered questions from attendees.

Salem Ferry, Salem, MA, Kate Fox

While approximately 90% of people say they want to age in place, fewer than 1% of our homes are actually equipped to make it possible. The task force’s Housing Subcommittee has compiled and published a list of contractors that provide needed services to home owners, often at discounted rates for older adults. The subcommittee has hosted information forums on universal design, advocated for accessory dwelling unit changes, and is currently studying intergenerational home sharing models to possibly bring to Salem. Affordable housing for older adults is a top priority.

The Health Subcommittee has focused a great deal on preventive health. Their members work with the CLC and community partners such as medical practitioners and others to organize and promote health and wellness public information events. A new “Are You OK” automated check-in system and a revamped “lock box” program are now in place for Salem’s most vulnerable residents in conjunction with the COA and the Salem Police and Fire Departments.

The subcommittee working on Outdoor Spaces and Buildings is carrying out a review of the accessibility needs for all public buildings. From their analysis they will build an action plan to prioritize, budget, and, ultimately, remedy accessibility shortfalls. Members are also working with DPW on a sidewalk master plan and development of a system for sidewalk repair requests that takes the age and mobility of residents into consideration when prioritizing work.

The Social Participation and Inclusion Subcommittee has been focused on developing intergenerational mentorships and opportunities for residents of all ages to interact with, learn from, and enjoy each other. Students from the Health Studies department at SSU have completed internships at the Council on Aging. Students from the Foreign Language department are translating material into Spanish and interacting with Spanish speaking older adults. The students are learning of the lives and histories of these people and also helping them with their English as needed. Students are also putting more components of the website into Spanish.

In 2019 Salem for All Ages worked with North Shore Physicians Group to host a free speaker series. Discussions were held on such topics as Myth Busters about Diabetes and Signs of Stroke.

A presentation on “Communicating with Older Adults” has been created and will be given to various organizations in Salem in the near future.

Salem’s age-friendly initiative is for you. The goal of the original action plan remains the goal in the 4th year of the 5 year plan, to create a livable, safe, and vibrant city, to benefit all of our residents, regardless of age or ability.

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Patricia Zaido is the Co-Chair of the Salem for All Ages Task Force, which considers how Salem’s aging residents will approach their futures and works toward an inclusive Salem for all residents regardless of age. Learn more about Salem for All Ages at salemforallages.org.