Assessing Age Friendliness In Lancaster County

 

The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) Network of Age-Friendly Communities is an Affiliate of the World Wealth Organization's (WHO) Age-Friendly Cities and Communities Program, an international effort launched in 2006 to help cities prepare for rapid population aging and the parallel trend of urbanization (AARP, 2014). WHO developed a framework that looks at determinants of active aging as illustrated below in an effort to engage community stakeholder in assessing if their community is Age-friendly.

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(WHO, 2007, p. 5)

 

The Lancaster Area Senior Services (LASS) interested in the Age-Friendly concept consulted with community stakeholders and the County Commissioners to determine if Lancaster County is an Age-Friendly Community.  To assist in the process, Millersville University School of Social Work committed to completing an environmental scan of Lancaster County and share findings with County Commissioners and other stakeholders at the end of the Fall semester 2018.

Millersville University School of Social Work professors, Drs. Kathleen Walsh and Bertha Saldana DeJesus, incorporated the Age-Friendly framework and the community-based research project (environmental scan) in the SOWK 403 Practice III (macro practice) course to offer students a "real world" learning experience.  The professors also collaborated with the Millersville University Geography Department to provide students with instructional support in learning the Geographic Informational Systems (GIS) to display community services and gaps in services for members of the Aging population.  This collaboration offered students a learning opportunity of how services are contracted to illustrate community current services and needs.  

In the SOWK 403 course, BASW students worked in groups exploring “what was the most important social problem facing Lancaster County” through the lens of the aging population. An environmental scan was conducted by the students, to identify resources and gaps in services that impacted the aging population and the community as a whole (e.g., transportation, community and health services, housing, emotional health and social participation, financial and economic well-being).  The environmental scan afforded students opportunities to consult with the Geography Department and to learn the Geographic Information System (GIS) mapping which helped to "paint the picture" in identifying existing services and needs of the aging population in Lancaster County.  As a final part of the community-based research project, students developed a macro intervention to address some aspect of the social problem identified. 

Through this experience, students were able to apply the NASW Code of Ethics to practice; engage in project-oriented group work and apply micro skills when managing conflict.  Students collaborated with professionals in the community, identify and research social problems, engage with community organizations and other professionals, develop macro interventions, and use maps to display services and gaps using Geographic Information System GIS.  

At the end semester, Drs. Walsh and Saldana De Jesus will present an Executive Summary of the environmental scan to the County Commissioners and other stakeholders to determine if Lancaster County is an Age-friendly community. 

 

Reference

AARP. (n.d.). An introduction to the AARP Network of Age-Friendly Communities. Retrieved November 29, 2018, from https://www.aarp.org/livable-communities/network-age-friendly-communities/info-2014/an-introduction.html

World Health Organization. (2007). Global Age-friendly Cities: A Guide. France: WHO Press.