Dunedin embraces elder-ready status
By TOM ANDERSON
© St. Petersburg Times, published January 29, 2001
Florida's Elder Ready Communities program was conceived and proposed by state Elder Affairs Secretary Gema Hernandez early in 2000. This program is divided into two major parts, one addressing the needs of "well elders" and the other focusing on the needs of "frail elders."
The goal is to create a community that will encourage and permit elders to maintain their dignity, security and involvement and live independently in their own homes and community as long as possible.
It was significant that Dunedin was recognized by Gov. Jeb Bush and Hernandez as the first city in Florida to complete phase one of the Elder Ready Communities program.
The importance of this effort was emphasized when Bush announced Jan. 9 in Dunedin his plan to put an additional $128-million into elder-care programs statewide. This program will benefit not only those 60 and older, but also the children and families of our community.
Our Elder Ready program in Dunedin is primarily a volunteer program, designed to make our community more elder-friendly. I want to thank Dr. William Hale and the members of the Committee on Aging and Peggy Cummings and the members of the Elder Ready Subcommittee for Well Elders for all of their time, effort and creativity in this groundbreaking effort. By making our community elder-ready, we are making it more livable for all of our citizens.
During phase one, we have focused our attention on 10 main quality-of-life issues, among them, accessibility, traffic, transportation, elder-friendly businesses, medical services and facilities, crime and fire prevention and assistance, and elder-friendly government. As we have gone through this evaluation, we have identified opportunities to take immediate action and as a result, have done the following in the past six months:
Increased the homestead exemption by $10,000 for the needy elderly.
Changed timing on some traffic lights and installed a pedestrian signal push button at Douglas Avenue and Main Street.
Arranged for Neighborly Senior Services van service between mobile home parks on State Road 580 and Countryside Mall.
Streamlined utility bills and payment options.
Our evaluation and plan indicates a need to take action during the next three years to improve service in the following major areas:
Transportation -- Need more vans, buses, bus stops, routes, shelters and benches. Need more parking in downtown Dunedin and need to increase size of street name and address signs.
Pedestrians -- Need more and wider sidewalks, timing of traffic lights and pedestrian activation of lights.
Elder-friendly businesses -- Need more home delivery, healthy food on menus, access to stores and restrooms.
Medical service and facilities -- Need home delivery of drugs, day care facilities, reduced drug expense, increased services in our new expanded senior center.
We are still in the early stage of the evaluation and implementation of the "well elders" part and have not started the evaluation of the "frail elders" part; therefore, some of our conclusions may change during this year.
Instead of segregating our elderly citizens in traditional retirement communities, our objective is to embrace them as vibrant and energetic citizens of a truly intergenerational community. By making our city elder-ready, we will make Dunedin an even more exciting place for people of all ages.
As a member of the Executive Committee of the Area Agency on Aging for Pasco and Pinellas counties, I plan to recommend that other cities and counties under this agency seriously consider the adoption of the Elder Ready Communities program.
-- Tom Anderson is mayor of Dunedin.
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