Safe Routes Scoop

Senior Walkability in NJ:
Making Improvements One Step at a Time

end of the workshop produces a list of actionable items that participants can use to improve their communities. This includes issues identified during the walkability audit as well as other community-wide issues. Ultimately, a summary is created that memorializes potential projects and policies identified to improve senior walkability in the host community. The lead agency for each project and potential partners are identified, as well as the project’s anticipated duration.

 

As with any successful public participation effort, the success of a senior walkability workshop hinges on having a community that is supportive of senior mobility and the willingness of key stakeholders to offer their input. Having the right mix of participants at the workshop is also critical, which includes mayors, planners, engineers, and senior citizen and pedestrian advocates, as well as other decision makers at the local, county and state level. The ability to illustrate to these stakeholders the dangers associated with an unsafe walking environment is critical. When planning a workshop, it is also wise to involve the local senior center or senior care program. Both the staff and members have intimate knowledge of the local walking environment and can be a great source of information for those interested in making improvements. 

 

 

Community Walking Programs


Karen Alexander, director of eldercare services at United Jewish Communities (UJC) MetroWest NJ, was an active participant and supporter of the recent Caldwell senior mobility workshop. UJC MetroWest is committed to helping its senior population and is successfully doing so in Parsippany and now Caldwell by implementing Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities (NORC) in these locales. This federally supported effort seeks to connect seniors to community-based services, so they can remain in their homes as long as safely possible.

 

One element of the Parsippany NORC initiative involves free walking clubs, designed to motivate senior participants to exercise, as well as provide them with the opportunity to socialize and build relationships with their fellow walkers. There are two Parsippany walking groups: one club is for residents of a local senior housing residence, where participants opt to walk indoors. The second group meets at the local Police Athletic League grounds and typically walks in an adjacent field. Attendance is tracked and Alexander reported there has been consistent and positive participation in both walking clubs.

 

Alexander explained that seniors interested in walking in their communities are often hesitant due

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