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WKU graduate student, retired nursing professor facilitate age-friendly conversation

A small but serious gathering of seniors who reside at Village Manor, a Christian Care Communities retirement community in Bowling Green, is proof that the citizens of Bowling Green are taking ownership of the efforts to make our city more age-friendly.

An "Ask Bowling Green" age-friendly community conversation was held June 3 at Village Manor.

An “Ask Bowling Green” age-friendly community conversation was held June 3 at Village Manor.

The residents were talking – not tweeting or texting – and having good, old-fashioned, face-to-face conversations about the kind of community they want to live in.

“Once an initiative becomes community driven, it is more likely that outcomes are truly reflective of its citizens,” said Dr. Dana Burr Bradley, Director of WKU’s Center for Gerontology.

The age-friendly project was originally convened and started as a collaborative initiative between the Center for Gerontology at WKU, the City of Bowling Green and AARP Kentucky. However, it is now evident that individuals and businesses are jumping on board to help make this a reality.

The unique thing about the June 3 “Ask Bowling Green” community conversation was that the facilitator and notetaker were Urmila Tokekar, a WKU international student and Center for Gerontology graduate assistant, and BJ McKenzie, a resident of Village Manor and retired WKU nursing professor. Tokekar is enrolled in the Master of Health Administration program and plans to begin an internship at Village Manor this summer. McKenzie has helped organize several past efforts to gather information on what it means for Bowling Green to become more age-friendly. She also participated in the 50 Over 50 Bowling Green Citizens Academy in 2011 and received training on how to help collect data and development assessment plans for the project.

The City of Bowling Green joined the WHO network of Age-Friendly Cities in March 2012 and was the first city in the South and one of the seven original cities in the United States. Other cities that have joined the effort are New York, Washington, D.C., Chicago and Austin, Texas. This endeavor is a five-year, hands-on community-based research project utilizing the World Health Organization (WHO) framework for assessing the age-friendliness of Bowling Green that will eventually achieve the designed outcome – a more age-friendly city for the citizens of our community. The conversation at Village Manor is only one of many that have occurred and will continue to occur within our community.

On Aug. 1, the Center for Gerontology at WKU will be hosting “The Gathering” at WKU’s Augenstein Alumni Center. This event is a meeting of experts (businesses, individuals and/or organizations that serve older adults) to discuss what they have done to make Bowling Green more age-friendly, and what they would like to see be done in the future. The group will be limited to 30 companies so interested parties are encouraged to sign up well in advance at www.wku.edu/aging due to limited seating.

“We are looking for individuals to participate at ‘The Gathering’ that you wouldn’t normally immediately think of as serving older adults,” Dr. Bradley said. “While we encourage local home health, nursing facility and assisted living communities to sign up, we are also looking for different perspectives as well. Examples might be a personal trainer or Silver Sneakers instructor, mental health professionals, transportation and retail industry representatives, etc.”

Dr. Bradley, who was not able to attend the community conversation at Village Manor, will be co-presenting with Patrice Blanchard, Associate Director of AARP Kentucky, on the Age-Friendly City Bowling Green project at UK’s Summer Series on Aging Conference this week in Lexington.

 Want to learn more?

Contact: Dana Burr Bradley, (270) 745-2356.

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