ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
Andrea Bartlett, with the Chattanooga Public Library, speaks during a panel discussion during a town hall on making the city more livable to seniors at the Children's Advocacy Center of Hamilton County on Wednesday, April 11, 2018 in Chattanooga, Tenn.

Chattanooga is the first city in Tennessee to join AARP's livable community network, meaning elected leaders are committing to make the city a great place for all ages.

"We're here to make another important step in making Chattanooga more livable," Rebecca Kelly, state director for AARP Tennessee, said during a town hall on Wednesday, when the partnership was officially announced.

"This is the beginning of some areas of focus and work, but it's also a continuation of a lot of great things," she said, adding that the issue is timely, because in 12 years, more than 20 percent of the total U.S. population will be over the age of 65.

some text
AARP Tennessee State Director Rebecca Kelly speaks during a town hall on making the city more livable to seniors at the Children's Advocacy Center of Hamilton County on Wednesday, April 11, 2018 in Chattanooga, Tenn.

As part of the effort, AARP will offer expertise into how Chattanooga can improve it's "eight domains of livability," which were first defined by the World Health Organization as key areas that influence the quality of life of older adults.

The domains include outdoor spaces and buildings, transportation, housing, social participation, respect and social inclusion, civic participation and employment, communication and information, and community and health services.

"What we really want to do is give people choices as they age," Mayor Andy Berke said. "The more choices and options we give people, the better off they are, and I believe that Chattanooga is a city of creators — we're building a stronger and more resilient community."

Berke said the city has made strides in improving public safety and spaces, but housing could use some work.

"I wish I could say that everybody can afford the places they want in our community," he said, adding that the strong economy can actually hamper affordability. "When people are doing well, prices rise, and if you live on a fixed income, then you struggle more."

Other community leaders participated in a panel discussion that highlighted efforts already underway, like the city's pedestrian plan to revamp sidewalks.

Carol Berz, who serves as co-chairwoman of the Mayor's Council for Women, said there's a great need to focus on the issue of age discrimination, or "agesim," especially as it relates to economic empowerment.

"If we're going to be a place of family friendly workplaces, then we need to be a place of age friendly workplaces," she said. "We have to get rid of labeling people as seniors — they're people with all kinds of abilities."

Contact staff writer Elizabeth Fite at efite@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6673.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT