By TOM HINDLE — Hyattsville has been working to make the city more inclusive and easier to navigate for all its residents for years now.
In 2015, Hyattsville started the long process toward the city becoming an age-friendly community. This distinction, awarded by AARP in connection with the World Health Organization (WHO), denotes cities as prepared to cater to an aging population. The three-year journey has culminated in a 60-page report presented to the city council on Oct. 15. The Age Friendly Initiative Work Group (AFI Work Group) explained the four-pronged plan on Nov. 19 in an open discussion with the public held at a Hyattsville Aging in Place (HAP) board meeting in the city building.
To form the report, the AFI Work Group — made up of volunteers recruited by the city, identified the four greatest needs among seniors in the community. They designated the necessities into four separate categories, denoting particular issues in each. Their main concern was affordable housing.
“The highest priority in this area was making sure that housing is affordable and accessible,” Work Group chair Lisa Walker said.
The group hopes to expand options for affordable and safe housing for seniors at all income levels by influencing county laws and zoning to reflect the need for affordable and accessible housing options, which could include tiny homes, other accessory dwelling units and universal building standards.
In their Oct. 15 meeting, the AFI Work Group encouraged the council to support diversity in the community, Walker said. The group also aims to develop a program to allow seniors to make modifications to their homes.
“It would allow the city to allow seniors and others to make minor modifications like bars, railings, and possibly ramps,” Walker added.
The second area of focus was health and safety. Their concerns covered ground from senior abuse to fall prevention. The committee also noted that finding reasonably priced healthy food can be difficult, especially for people on fixed incomes. The final request was that public transport be available for seniors on weekends.
The committee also highlighted the areas of communication and home services. They want to expand activities for seniors, and encourage them to remain active. Another issue is electronic communication, Walker said.
“The city puts out a lot of information in English and Spanish … but we were concerned that a lot of the development of communication has been electronic,” Walker said. “We realized that a lot of seniors do not use electronic communication.”
Despite already being presented to members of the city council, the plan is awaiting official approval. One city councilmember doesn’t anticipate any problems.
“The report was beautifully written and well thought out. I didn’t see anything objectionable,” Councilmember Shani Warner (Ward 2) said.
After the presentation, the board received feedback and took questions from community members in attendance. The reaction was mostly positive.
“I know HAP has been around and I trust them to see what the community needs,” Hyattsville resident Nicola Wood said.
The AFI Work Group’s plan will be officially presented at the Hyattsville City Council meeting on Jan. 7. The group said they hope to get it officially approved on Jan. 22. To maintain the city’s status as a member of the AARP age-friendly network, adoption and submission of a plan must be accomplished in or before January 2019.