With the world population aging fast, the need to plan, adapt, and build livable, lifelong communities that are good for people of all ages is growing fast as well. AARP and the WHO have recognized the importance of these “age-friendly” communities, as have many other organizations large and small. Good progress is being made in many places, though more innovation and collaboration is still needed to create better transportation and housing options, safer streets, more job and volunteer opportunities, and healthier environments.
That’s why Grantmakers In Aging, an affinity group of funders devoted to improving the experience of aging, of which I am Chief Executive Officer, launched an initiative two years ago called Community AGEnda. With funding from the Pfizer Foundation, we are helping five American communities accelerate their efforts to become more age-friendly: great places to grow up and grow old.
In pursuing this goal with our partners, we discovered that many places encountered an obstacle in their work: they had difficulty in visualizing, describing, and demonstrating what an age-friendly community actually looks like.
So Community AGEnda ran a photo contest, “Friendly Places, Friendly Faces,” in which we challenged photographers and, indeed, anyone with a story to tell, to submit photos that captured some aspect of an age-friendly community.
The international response was tremendous, and the photos we received (more than 500 of them, from 29 countries) underscored an important point: every community is unique, and the solutions that will make life better must be unique and place-specific as well.
We awarded prizes in six categories, including an overall grand prize, which went to this shot of early morning exercise from Kolkata, India, captured by Sudipto Das, a senior photojournalist with The Times of India.
To select the winners, we turned to four expert judges with a deep understanding of visual storytelling and aging: Deborah Whitman, AARP Executive Vice President of Policy, Strategy, and International Affairs; Anne Basting, Founding Director of University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee's Center on Age and Community and director of the TimeSlips Creative Storytelling Project; Chester Higgins, New York Times staff photographer; and Julie Turkewitz, freelance photographer and New York Times journalist.
Our winning photographs tell meaningful stories of how older adults are vitally connected to the life of their cities, towns and villages in many different parts of the world. These photos invite us to look around and appreciate how older people, and people of all ages, are already connecting, helping one another, and living well in their communities. And they provide a glimpse of what it might be like to live in a fully developed age-friendly community, inspiring us all toward that common goal.
We invite you to learn more about age-friendly communities and about Community AGEnda and to view all the winning images at the Community AGEnda photo contest webpage.
About the author
John Feather, PhD is Chief Executive Officer of Grantmakers in Aging, the national association of grantmaking foundations and other organizations that work to improve the lives of older people. Prior to beginning that position on October 1, 2011, he was Executive Director and CEO of the American Society of Consultant Pharmacists, the national membership organization of pharmacists who specialize in care of older persons. Until 2002, he was Director of the AARP Andrus Foundation, the research and education charity of AARP.