On June 1, 2019, the City of Sisters was accepted as a member of the World Health Organization’s Global Network for Age-Friendly Cities and Communities.

Membership reflects the City’s commitment to listen to the needs of their aging population, assess and monitor their age-friendliness, and work collaboratively with older people and across sectors to create age-friendly physical and social environments. It signals to the citizens of Sisters Country that the City will proactively take age-related issues into consideration in its planning and building codes for both commercial and residential building projects. Membership is also a commitment to share experience, achievements, and lessons learned with other cities and communities.

The WHO network was established in 2010 to connect cities, communities, and organizations worldwide with the common vision of making their community a great place in which to grow old. It focuses on action at the local level that fosters the full participation of older people in community life and promotes healthy and active aging.

The network currently includes 847 cities and communities in 41 countries, covering over 230 million people worldwide. Portland was granted membership in 2012 and was the first U.S. city to be so designated.

As defined by WHO, an age-friendly city has structures and services accessible to and inclusive of older people with varying needs and capacities. The emphasis is on enablement rather than disablement. The built, social, and service environments are friendly for people of all ages and abilities.

“When cities address the needs of older adult citizens, they create an environment that is better for all. For instance, longer lights at crosswalks give older adults – and school kids, and parents with strollers – more time to safely cross a busy street,” explained Susan Rotella, executive director of the Council of Aging of Central Oregon.

Across the globe, populations are growing older because lifespans are increasing, and birth rates are declining. Census Bureau data in 2016 showed that in Sisters, the number of residents aged 65 and older accounted for over 27 percent of the total population. Aging populations will by necessity shape local, regional, national, and international economies and policymaking.

The eight domains of being age-friendly comprise the three key elements of the built, service, and social environments. Those domains and how they impact people include:

•?The outside environment and public buildings have a major impact on the mobility, independence, and quality of life of people in later life.

•?Transportation, including accessible and affordable public transport, is a key issue for people in later life.

•?Housing and support that allows people in late life to age comfortably and safely within the community to which they belong are universally valued.

•?Social participation is strongly connected to good health and wellbeing throughout life.

•?Older people from all backgrounds are valued and respected.

•?An age-friendly community provides options for people in later life to continue to contribute to their communities.

•?Staying connected with events and people and getting timely, practical information to manage life and meet personal needs are vital for active aging.

•?Community support is strongly connected to good health and wellbeing throughout life, alongside accessible and affordable health care services.

Here in the United States, AARP Network of Age-Friendly States and Communities is the WHO affiliate with their AARP Network of Age-Friendly Communities. The network was launched in April 2012 as an independent affiliate of the WHO network.

“With the age-friendly program, AARP helps participating communities become great places for people of all ages by adopting such features as walkable streets, better housing and transportation options, access to key services, and opportunities for residents to participate in community activities,” according to Nancy LeaMond, Chief Advocacy and Engagement Officer for AARP in Washington D.C.

According to LeaMond, enrollment in the network provides member communities with the resources to become more age-friendly by tapping into national and global research, planning models, and best practices.