Incorporating healthy aging principles that foster active living and access to healthy foods into community planning, land use, and transportation decisions is critical to supporting healthy aging across the Commonwealth. The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH) promotes the concept of healthy aging through community design, which creates opportunities for municipalities to encourage healthy aging by addressing the built environment; it also builds on the “8 – 80” international movement, which recognizes the importance of establishing community policies that provide for people of all ages.
In 2014 and 2015, MPDH collaborated with the Massachusetts Association of Councils on Aging and Seniors Center Directors (MCOA) to award 21 short-term grants to municipalities. These grants combined the resources of local Mass in Motion communities and local councils on aging to focus on specific areas of the built environment. Examples include expansion of walking opportunities through walk audits and sidewalk/ walking path improvements and access to healthy foods through projects focusing on creating community gardens, nutrition education and/or expanded farmer’s markets targeting older adults. A few grantees also actively participate in local Age-Friendly Community coalitions.
The Pioneer Valley Planning Commission (PVPC) received funding to adapt “Healthy Community Design Toolkit: Leveraging Positive Change” by infusing principles of healthy aging throughout the publication.
In 2016, the Massachusetts Association of Health Boards (MAHB), in partnership with MDPH, also awarded healthy community design grants to 17 communities, many of which are focusing on healthy aging.