- Cities of Service, an arm of Bloomberg Philanthropies' American Cities Initiative, announced that six cities will participate in its new Experience Matters program. The Experience Matters initiative launched in partnership with AARP to build stronger cities by drawing on the expertise of adults aged 50 and older.
- Albuquerque, NM; Birmingham, AL; Columbia, SC; Fort Worth, TX; St. Paul, MN; and Tulsa, OK each will work to develop volunteering opportunities to address a public problem that contributes to poverty. The issues volunteers will work to improve include childhood literacy, financial insecurity and housing code violations.
- The cities will receive $25,000 and technical assistance to advance their initiatives, as well as two full-time AmeriCorps VISTA members who will work in city hall to assist them and raise awareness.
Many smart city advances involve incorporating technology and innovations to improve citizens' lives. A misconception some innovators, or average citizens, fall victim to is that seniors are not technologically savvy enough to contribute to the smart city sector. But that belief is not an accurate representation.
Technology is pervasive enough in modern America that young people aren't the only ones who own and regularly use it. The Pew Research Center released data last year indicating 95% of Americans own a cellphone, about three-quarters of which are smartphones. Of people 65 and older, 85% own a cell phone and almost half own smartphones. Such data illustrates that older consumers are not tech resistant like some people may believe.
But the smart city sector reaches beyond technology. A widely shared goal of smart city development is to create a more sustainable and livable community, with a focus on benefiting citizens of all ages and abilities. Seniors fit solidly into that space and can contribute to a city's progress. The Experience Matters program harnesses those abilities to improve the six participating cities.
Cities increasingly are focusing on equitable innovation at the beginning of new projects and they are drawing it into their development plans. They're focusing on improvements to be more inclusive of aging populations and allow seniors to age in place within cities. Columbus, OH and Pittsburgh are among the cities that have undertaken both infrastructure upgrades like fixing sidewalks and making intersections safer, as well as promoting intergenerational community activities that stimulate knowledge sharing between different generations.
More cities are committing to age friendliness by joining the AARP Network of Age-Friendly Communities, as Boise, ID did in April. But beyond just making cities more livable for aging populations, the Experience Matters program taps into how seniors themselves can contribute to society.