There is dramatic evidence that the population is aging nationwide. There will soon be more older Americans than children for the first time in U.S. history. Illinois’ population is no exception to this trend, with residents aged 60 and older growing at a much faster rate than other age groups. As the population ages, communities that recognize and respond to the changing needs and desires of older residents will be stronger and more resilient.
The NIU Center for Governmental Studies (CGS), in the Division of Outreach, Engagement and Regional Development, is on the forefront of helping communities respond to this change. CGS recently won the 2021 Best Practice Award from the American Planning Association-Illinois Chapter, along with the City of Woodstock, for their Woodstock Age-Friendly Livable Community Action Plan. The award recognizes best practice in state-of-the-art community planning on a variety of topics.
CGS researchers, led by Senior Research Associate Mim Evans, created the action plan through research, stakeholder input and multiple work sessions with a local Woodstock, IL, advisory group. The plan contains goals, strategies and implementation plans for housing, facilities, services and activities. Many of the projects identified in the plan are already underway. Evans and officials representing the City of Woodstock accepted the award at the APA-IL 2021 Annual Conference in Normal, IL, on Oct. 6, 2021.
Because age-friendly plans are very new, best practices are just beginning to emerge. Therefore, the Woodstock plan, while drawing on previous examples, was created with Woodstock’s specific needs in mind. Going forward, Woodstock can serve as an example of age-friendly planning for other communities in Illinois. Interest in age-friendly planning is likely to keep growing as more municipalities recognize and prepare for the shifting balance of age groups.
Luckily, preparing for aging residents also helps communities better serve all residents, according to Evans. She says communities that are designated ‘age-friendly’ are also often called ‘livable communities’ because they provide a healthy and positive environment for all people, including safe and affordable housing, quality healthcare, transportation, outdoor space, environmental quality, and chances to socialize and get involved in public life.
The City of Woodstock applied for and received a McHenry County Community Foundation Transformational Grant to begin the age-friendly process. A portion of the grant funds covered plan preparation costs.
View the full plan at go.niu.edu/WoodstockPlan.
The NIU Center for Governmental Studies is part of the Division of Outreach, Engagement and Regional Development at Northern Illinois University. For more than 50 years, CGS has combined experience with the latest research and current best practices to support local government and nonprofit leaders, helping them to implement efficient, sustainable and cost-effective approaches to economic, social and information management issues. Learn more at cgs.niu.edu.