Swarthmore Named an Age-Friendly Community by the WHO

By Carol Menke

Great news! The World Health Organization (WHO) has designated Swarthmore Borough as an Age-Friendly Community member. Establishing a WHO Age-Friendly Community was one of the 22 key recommendations of the 2015 Swarthmore Aging-in-Place Task Force. Ann Torregrossa, Linton Stables, and Kerry Hogg of the Aging-in-Place Action Group had submitted the membership application to the WHO Global Network last year. Mayor Tim Kearney was instrumental in establishing the Task Force, especially in preparing a supporting letter that was required for Swarthmore to qualify for WHO Age-Friendly Community membership.

In 2014, the Borough of West Chester and West Chester University created a unique partnership as a WHO Age-Friendly Community. West Chester University’s website, Age-Friendly West Chester, outlines a number of collaborative initiatives such as intergenerational mentoring, special events, and student research projects. There is great potential for Swarthmore Borough and Swarthmore College to develop similar cooperative programs.

While there will always be some residents who decide to relocate outside the Borough, the Task Force found that those who wish to remain in their present home or downsize to another home felt there were few options and a lack of a support network that would enable them remain in Swarthmore. With baby boomers retiring and a surprising number of seniors moving into Swarthmore, Swarthmore is actively working to strengthen its commitment to retaining and attracting older residents. The WHO designation adds to this important supportive framework for a healthy multigenerational Swarthmore community.

What’s Next?

With the Aging-in-Place Task Force Report providing a baseline assessment, and the WHO designation serving as a springboard, Swarthmore citizens will develop a three-year action plan to implement additional Swarthmore Aging-in-Place Task Force recommendations. At the end of three years, a progress report will be filed with the World Health Organization.

The Swarthmore Senior Citizens Association has taken a preliminary leadership role under the guidance of Vice President Bill Davis. Discussions include determining the appropriate non-profit entity to further the Aging-in-Place recommendations. Other initiatives include promoting senior library programs, organizing a Swarthmore Senior Day for information exchange, creating a volunteer time bank similar to TimeBank Media, increasing the diversity of housing options, and making the train station and downtown more accessible. For more information, the Task Force’s Report is available at the Swarthmore Public Library and on the Swarthmore Borough website swarthmorepa.org, and also via the WHO’s Age-Friendly website. Bill Davis can be contacted at wmndavis@gmail.com.

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