By Kim Peters
Members of the Killington Active Seniors group listen to an AARP presentation.
By Gerrie Russell
Livable Communities, Village to Village and Complete Streets were a few of the concepts presented to the Killington Active Seniors during their weekly luncheon at the Lookout. Kelly Stoddard Poor, associate director of Outreach with AARP Vermont, gave an overview of AARP’s Livable Communities initiative, stating they were good for people and good for business.
AARP defines a livable community as a place where “affordable and appropriate housing, supportive community services, and adequate mobility options, which facilitate personal independence and the engagement of residents in civic and social life” are available.
According to a recent poll conducted by AARP, nearly 78 percent of people over 45 want to stay in their home and 88 percent of people over 45 believe their current community is where they want to stay. In order to accommodate this trend, communities need a mix of homes, a mix of incomes, certain amenities, public transportation options and walkability.
Village to Village is a proven support system that allows seniors to age in place and is gaining support across the country. It provides services such as snow removal, cleaning services, transportation and other needs that older adults may need on a temporary basis and thus be able to stay in their homes. This concept may start small and grow as the older population of a community grows.
Ms. Stoddard Poor mentioned multiple benefits for making communities more livable and age friendly and the group agreed, stating the need for grocery stores, pharmacies, parks and safe places to walk. Safe places to walk led us to a discussion of recent national legislation that AARP supported, called “Complete Streets” (Act 34).
“The purpose of Complete Streets is to ensure roadways are designed to safely accommodate all users of all ages: pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists, and bus riders. The Complete Streets approach to planning has arisen after many decades where automobiles were the primary, and sometimes the only, mode of transportation considered in the design process, like has happened in Killington,” she explained.
In the past 10 or more years, there has been a steady shift nationally toward a more comprehensive view of the users that should be equally considered in the planning of transportation networks. The Killington planning commission recently added Complete Streets principals to the town plan and are working on a town-wide policy they will recommend to the selectboard.
How livable is Killington? When housing, transportation, environment and a few other categories were considered, we received a livability score of 48 out of 100. This index can be found at www.livabilityindex.aarp.org and certainly shows areas where improvement is needed.
Improving the walkability of Killington was made clear during a walk down Killington Road after the presentation. Lack of crosswalks, no place for cyclists, speeding, and the need to have continuous sidewalks were all abundantly clear on this short walk.
Fortunately for us, a few of our town officials also attended this presentation. Seth Webb, town manager; Dick Horner, town planner; Chris Bianchi, selectboard member; Kim Peters, director of parks and recreation; David Rosembum, chairman of the planning commission; and Andy Salamon, member of the planning commission, were there and interested in this potential conversation.
At the very least a dialog can begin to lead Killington into the future. Perhaps Killington can be the town the rest of Vermont looks to as being the most innovative in providing the services the residents need and want.