11.12.08

Saratoga Springs, New York. This historic and lovely community is host to an incredibly rich conference entitled Empowering Communities for Successful Aging. Mia Oberlink and I had the honor of speaking about the Indiana version of the AdvantAge Initiative to about 30 folks from around New York state. An orientation to the “AI” model was provided by Mia and I followed with an overview of the Indiana project, describing the range of community conversations around aging that is occurring throughout the state as groups digest their survey data. Two very interesting questions prompted some productive conversation. Veteran aging public policy maven Fredda Vladeck challenged states to develop planning processes that fully engage local communities and produce local action, while avoiding the proliferation of disparities that can occur where there is a vacuum in overall public policy commitments to equitable services and programs for all residents everywhere. I cited the positive example of an Indiana community that wants to, literally, “ramp up” access in and out of homes for frail elders – something that emerged from the local planning process. Fredda offered the suggestion that such an outcome might occur everywhere should public policy makers commit to the value of equal access for all.

Roger Sanjek, an anthropologist recently retired from City College, wondered aloud why we cannot truly and effectively integrate planning for those who live in “the community” with and for those who reside in institutions. I couldn’t disagree with Roger’s comment, though offered that the participatory planning model represented by the AdvantAge Initiative might well be applied in the micro-environment of the nursing home, where planning is typically expert-driven and where resident voices are typically absent. But Roger is right – citizens also need to take on the part of those who reside in institutions and consider these places to belong to the public realm in a very real way.

Next stop, Gary, Indiana, again, when citizens of Northwest Indiana will take up their survey data and put on their planning shoes – January 16, 2009.

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