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City launches Age Friendly Community effort

By: Kayla Dimick | Southfield Sun | Published March 29, 2017

SOUTHFIELD — Southfield officials say they have long been focused on creating an enriched community that welcomes everyone  — young and old.

According to Karen Schrock, chair of the Southfield Commission on Senior Adults, the city has recently bumped up efforts to provide resources for its aging population.

COSA is a city-led organization whose goal is to present recommendations and information to the mayor and the City Council based on studies and investigations to help the city address the needs, concerns and problems of senior adults living in the Southfield community.

The group also works closely with city departments and local agencies that serve the senior community, monitors state and federal legislation, and serves as an educational link to services and resources, officials said.

Schrock said the city has applied to be designated by AARP as an Age Friendly Community and is in the first stages of obtaining the certification.

With 40 percent of city residents over the age of 50, Schrock said the time to act is now.

“It’s an opportunity for Southfield to improve the quality of life for seniors,” she said. “We’re an aging community, so rather than waiting and doing nothing, we feel it’s important for the city to be prepared for the increasing aging population so that those aging feel welcome and we attract new people.”

The first step in the process to be certified, Schrock said, is to undergo an assessment on Southfield’s current resources and programs for seniors. COSA will then identify what improvements are needed to make the community age friendly, she said. Finally, the city will implement those improvements.

During the assessment, information will be gathered on housing, transportation, recreational opportunities and other categories, Schrock said.

“We don’t want to get ahead of ourselves on what is lacking, but I’m guessing people will say transportation and housing,” Schrock said. “Not everyone wants to be in senior housing facilities. Some people want to be able to stay in their homes.”

One thing the city does well for seniors, Schrock said, is recreational programs.

Schrock said officials are planning a kickoff event for the effort May 24 at the Southfield Pavilion, 26000 Evergreen Road. AARP representatives and city officials will be on hand to discuss the project.

In a previous report, Southfield City Planner Terry Croad discussed a survey by AARP in which participants were asked to rank the places they live on “livability.” Participants ages 50 and older were asked to rank their cities on housing, neighborhoods, transportation, environment and other factors. Southfield received a score of 49 out of a possible 100. The median score was 50, Croad said, adding that Southfield could do better.

Last year, two senior housing developments received a $19.8 million makeover, compliments of a Michigan State Housing Development Authority tax credit.

City officials recently cut the ribbon for the opening of McDonnell Tower Apartments and River Park Place Apartments, 24400 and 24300 Civic Center Drive, respectively.

McDonnell Tower Apartments is an 11-story apartment building with 162 units for seniors 62 and older, as well as subsidized apartments and assisted living units. The River Park Place apartment complex offers 245 subsidized rental housing units, including 182 units for seniors 62 and older, and an additional eight family townhomes. Construction began on the complexes in August 2015.

In September, the Southfield City Council presented COSA with a resolution stating that City Council members recognize and support the organization’s efforts with AARP.

Mayor Ken Siver said recently that city officials fully support COSA’s efforts with AARP.

“As mayor, I’ve long been an advocate for our residents to age in place. I’m hoping to do the same,” Siver said. “We are an aging community in Southfield, so it’s very important to get all the resources that we can.”