Age-Friendly Oxford Initiative: Collaborating to create a community for all ages

Around the world, communities are preparing for the opportunities and challenges associated with longer lives. In the U.S., the AARP Livable Communities initiative provides guidance and resources for communities interested in becoming “age-friendly.” Scripps is excited to be part of age-friendly efforts right in our own backyard through the Age-Friendly Oxford Initiative (AFOI), a five-year community improvement process for the City of Oxford and Oxford Township supported by a unique collaboration of community partners.

The seeds of this collaboration were planted more than ten years ago with the founding of the Oxford VillAGE Network (OVN). OVN is a grassroots advocacy and volunteer organization focused on older people and their families that promotes community, communication, and inclusion. Much of OVN’s work is carried out in conjunction with Oxford Seniors, Inc., a thriving adult community center offering services to older residents of Oxford and Oxford Township.

In the fall of 2013, OVN hosted a day-long community forum at which Scripps Executive Director, Suzanne Kunkel, was a featured speaker. “There was an amazing community turnout with more than 130 people coming together to think about the concept of growing older in Oxford,” shared AFOI co-leader Jessie Leek, “what that might mean for people within our community and for our community in general.” The energy and interest from that initial forum evolved and in the fall of 2017, the AFOI was launched when the City of Oxford became a member of the AARP Network of Age-Friendly States and Communities and the partners committed to actively working together towards age-friendly awareness and improvements.

In 2018, Scripps collaborated with the AFOI to create and administer a community needs assessment survey to Oxford community members ages 50 and older. The findings of the needs assessment will inform the AFOI action plan to be implemented in years 3-5 of the initiative. In addition to research support, Scripps has also contributed graduate student time, administrative support, and educational resources for AFOI efforts.

Today, the AFOI includes representatives from many sectors of the Oxford community and AFOI co-leader Ann Whelpton credits the collaboration between OVN, Oxford Seniors, and Scripps with providing a balanced foundation for the work, “The unique expertise coming from each organization, combined with the vision and passion they all share, create far more substance and momentum for the initiative than any of the organizations could achieve on its own.”