Advocates for Livable Communities Project
The Indiana Institute's Center on Aging and Communityâ€™s Advocates for Livable Communities project began in 2013 as a way to help local communities identify opportunities to engage new advocates and develop a visible advocacy group that was knowledgeable about the concept of livability to improve the lives of others in their community.
The Center along with the University of Indianapolis was awarded funding from the Indiana Governorâ€™s Council for People with Disabilities to develop a comprehensive training curriculum and workbook around livable communities, evaluate this training approach, and expand the model to new communities.
Two communities were identified each year to host a five-day comprehensive training. Each training session targeted 10 aging adults (60 and older) and 10 adults with a disability. A balance of persons with intellectual, developmental, visual, and/or physical disabilities were sought to take part. The training was twofold. The first half focused on livability components such as mobility, housing, social, health, education/employment/civic, and recreation. The second half concentrated on developing and enhancing effective advocacy through education, collaboration, letter writing, how to provide effective testimony, using the media, and visiting community master plans.
The training focused on active learning with time for both small and large group discussions, role playing, as well as presentations from outside city planners and other experts. Two homework assignments were given and attendees were asked to pair up with someone of a different age and ability than themselves. These assignments were productive in encouraging participants to explore their community and were an excellent way for them to get to know one another.
On the final day of training local leaders, as identified by attendees, were invited to attend an informal discussion. Participants were encouraged to discuss issues of importance that they were interested in pursuing with community leaders. Additionally, attendees were asked to make two personal pledges that they could accomplish in the next three to four months following the training.
Training outcomes have resulted in: Â
- Funding for an Active Living Workshop;
- Starting a Healthy Shelby Coalition;
- Organizing a â€˜walkaboutâ€™ with local officials;
- Livable Community committee appointed by a Mayor;
- Improved and new curb cuts as well as new paint to cross walks; and
- Audible signals.
One community won the Lifelong Indiana Coalition 5 x 5 award for:
- Initiating a walk/bike school campaign;
- Developing a fairgrounds accessibility plan;
- Assisting in downtown redevelopment planning; and
- Creating an intergenerational center between the senior center and arts
Attendee John, an eighty-year-old retired councilman, said he had never really met nor talked to a person with a disability. He said he was ashamed of all the potential resources he had overlooked during his tenure. To date, the project has trained 108 advocates from the Indiana communities of Shelbyville, Crawfordsville, Bedford, Richmond,Â Kokomo, and Wabash.