On the Journey to Build an Age-Friendly Community

NEWS // February 20, 2018

On a Journey to Build an Age-Friendly Community

It’s a vision of a community that anyone would want for their own aging grandparent, their child, and themselves: safe, walkable neighborhoods; access to fresh, healthy foods; appropriate medical care and social services; and opportunities to enjoy meaningful connections with others. It’s a place where people can be healthy, safe, and thriving at both ends of the lifespan and everywhere in between.

The County of San Diego has been on a journey to turn this vision into a reality and make the region an even better place to live. In partnership with The San Diego Foundation, AARP, and numerous community organizations, the San Diego County Board of Supervisors created the “Age Well” initiative, a 5-year journey during which organizations and individuals are working together on projects and policies that will improve quality of life in our communities. The process involves gathering community feedback, developing an action plan, implementing the plan, and then evaluating the effectiveness of our efforts.

Age Well is the marriage of two prominent frameworks. The first includes age-friendly principles that have been identified by AARP and the World Health Organization. These organizations suggest that to create a livable community for all ages, there ought to be consideration of “eight domains of livability.” These areas include:

o   Housing

o   Communication & Information

o   Social Participation

o   Community Support & Health Services

o   Respect & Social Inclusion

o   Outdoor Spaces & Buildings

o   Civic Participation & Employment

o   Transportation

The second component of Age Well involves applying a dementia-friendly lens to all of the age-friendly work. Using expertise from Dementia Friendly America as a guide, Age Well is striving to make San Diego County a place where those with dementia, and their caregivers, can feel supported to live rich, meaningful lives in the community with appropriate support. 

Building the Plan

Feedback from community members and local organizations has been essential to this process. During 2016 and 2017, the County of San Diego and partners heard from hundreds of diverse older adults and professionals at listening sessions and focus groups, and through questionnaires. On November 8, 2017, over two hundred community partners attended the two age-friendly planning sessions at the Live Well Advance to begin the process of synthesizing this feedback, with the guidance of livable communities expert, Mark Fenton.

Over the past two months, many of the same partners who attended the Live Well Advance, as well as other professionals and community members, attended four planning sessions. During the planning process, five primary theme areas emerged as being of highest priority to our region: transportation, housing, community support/health services, social participation, and dementia-friendly initiatives. Participants explored these theme areas with an eye for opportunities for intergenerational involvement. They then identified a vision of what an age-friendly region would look like within each of the theme areas, and formulated goals and action steps. The final plan will be submitted to the Board for adoption in May.

This summer the real work will begin. Teams will tackle important issues, such as creating programs to prevent and overcome homelessness, implementing leadership training for older adults, and ensuring that more streets are planned for the safe mobility of pedestrians, bicyclists, and transit users. Community partners and interested residents will be an integral part of the process. Together, let’s make San Diego County the best place in which to grow up and grow old.

For more information on Age Well and how you can get involved in Age Well, contact Chuck Matthews at or (858) 495-5858.   

Community partners, County staff, older adults, and others came together at a series of meetings to build the Age Well plan.