About Age-Friendly Columbus and Franklin County
Age-Friendly Columbus and Franklin County is part of an international effort launched by the World Health Organization (WHO) to foster healthy and active aging and help cities prepare for rapid growth in the aging population.
In the United States, the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) serves as the affiliate for WHO and leads a network of Age-Friendly Communities across the country. In an Age-Friendly Community, public officials, service providers, community leaders and older adults work together to develop policies, services and structures related to the physical and social environment designed to best support older residents. The goal of an Age-Friendly Community is to help older adults remain in their preferred environment and empower them to stay healthy, active and participate fully in their community.
Age-Friendly Columbus was launched in 2015 under guidance of the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission (MORPC) to assess the age-friendliness of the City of Columbus through research, field work and outreach. The assessment focused on eight domains impacting the health and quality of life of older adults, including: outdoor spaces and buildings; transportation; housing; safety and emergency preparedness; respect, inclusion and social participation; employment and civic engagement; communication and information; and community support and health services. Assessment findings provided foundational knowledge to develop a strategic plan for Columbus, Ohio to strengthen the quality of life for older adults in the community and engaged more than 1,500 older adults in the community-wide process. Following completion of the strategic plan, the three-year implementation phase of Age-Friendly Columbus is being managed through a partnership between The Ohio State University College of Social Work, the City of Columbus and Franklin County Office on Aging. Through this partnership, the project will be expanded from Columbus to across Franklin County, reflected in the new name Age-Friendly Columbus and Franklin County.
In 2014, the Osteopathic Heritage Foundation (the Foundation) launched a multi-year funding initiative with a goal to measurably transform and advance community systems and service delivery efforts to improve the overall health and well-being of vulnerable older adults in Franklin County, Ohio. The initiative was informed by a Foundation-commissioned report by The Ohio State University’s Kirwan Institute and College of Social Work, Meeting the Challenges of an Aging Population with Success. The report findings confirmed adults 65 years of age and older will comprise over 20 percent of the population in 2030, compared to less than 10 percent in 1970. In addition, the report found a 20-year difference in life expectancy among older adults in Franklin County, depending on the neighborhood where individuals reside. With this knowledge, and further input from Franklin County’s aging system leadership, service providers and older adults, the Foundation developed a strategic framework, the Healthy Aging Initiative (HAI), designed to expand access to preventative health, case management and transportation services for vulnerable older adults, and to promote systems change to improve the quality of life for older adults in the community.
Through the HAI, the Foundation provided $250,000 in lead support to Age-Friendly Columbus. This funding launched the assessment phase of the project and included creation of the strategic plan, which identified 17 strategies and 54 steps for infrastructure improvements, service expansion and policy changes to create measurable improvements in the lives of older adults.
“This inclusive plan for our community was made with our older adults, and not for our older adults,” explained Katie White, Director of Age-Friendly Columbus and Franklin County. “This has helped Age-Friendly Columbus, service providers and key departments within the City of Columbus to look at our focus areas through the aging lens.”
As the Age-Friendly Columbus and Franklin County strategic plan is implemented, support services for older adults in Franklin County are increasing through their partnership with local organizations. Recent service expansions in the City of Columbus include:
- The addition of a social worker housed within the Columbus Fire Department’s Emergency Medical Services team to help older adults who frequently call 911 connect with additional community support services (through a partnership with Central Ohio Area Agency on Aging).
- Development of the Hilltop Village (through a partnership with The Greater Hilltop Shalom Zone and neighborhood organizations), a membership network for adults 50+, modeled after similar networks in Clintonville, German Village and the Short North neighborhoods, allowing older adults to remain in their homes longer with support from neighbors.
- Increased transportation opportunities, including a neighborhood circulator helping to address mobility barriers (through a partnership with the Greater Columbus Network of Villages and Clintonville-Beechwold Community Resources Center).
Age-Friendly Columbus and Franklin County has also developed a communications strategy to help the broader community better understand the experiences of older adults. As part of this effort, Age-Friendly Columbus and Franklin County produced a video exploring a day in the life of an older adult resident of the city. Learn more about the challenges faced by older adults in Columbus by watching A Day in the Life of Karen.
Video: A Day in the Life of Karen
More on Age-Friendly Columbus and Franklin County was featured in a May 2018 episode of the WOSU series Columbus Neighborhoods.