Committed To Becoming More Age-Friendly
Berkshire County United States of America
In mid-2014, a group of interested Berkshire County professionals began to meet and explore how to make Berkshire County, a region comprised of 32 cities and towns, a more age-friendly place to live, work and play. The Age Friendly Berkshires Task Force was more formally organized late that year, with representation from numerous sectors of the community such as planning, health care, home care, housing, education, councils on aging, municipalities, boards of health, business, cultural organizations and others.
In early 2015, the Age Friendly Berkshires county survey was conducted and almost 2,500 responses were received from adults age 50 and over who described their experiences living in Berkshire County. In June 2015, Age Friendly Berkshires was formally accepted into the AARP Network of Age Friendly Communities. In June 2015, Age Friendly Berkshires held a large public summit to launch the effort, with 125 attendees. That same month, Age Friendly Berkshires was awarded a generous two-year grant from the Tufts Health Plan Foundation to begin the planning process toward an age-friendly Berkshire County and leading to an Action Plan.
The initial steps after joining the AARP Age Friendly Communities Network include garnering political commitment, organizing stakeholders and establishing an advisory committee of older adults to provide input to the Task Force. In 2016, the community began the Planning phase leading to the creation of The Age Friendly Berkshires’ Action Plan.
The Action Plan incorporates findings from the Age Friendly Berkshires Survey in 2015, as well as the three Aging in Place Forums held in 2016. Eight domain leaders, one for each domain of livability, were hired in late 2016 to conduct strategic interviews with key stakeholders and to produce the first draft of the plan framework in their area of expertise.
In 2017, the work continued with the development of an Age Friendly Berkshires website (www.agefriendlyberkshires.com) supported by a grant from AARP – Massachusetts. In June, Age Friendly Berkshires was awarded a second, two-year grant from the Tufts Health Plan Foundation, to begin to implement the Action Plan. Over the summer months of 2017, a smaller Steering Committee was formed from the Task Force and, following the Collective Impact Model, Berkshire Regional Planning Commission (BRPC) was designated as the backbone agency for Age Friendly Berkshires.
We have received 6 Municipal Resolutions committing to Age Friendly Berkshires from 2 City Councils (Pittsfield & North Adams, MA) and 4 Select Boards (Cheshire, Hinsdale, Adams, Sheffield). During this Implementation Phase, we are actively seeking commitments from the balance of our municipalities. In January of this year, the Governor of Massachusetts declared that the Commonwealth would become an Age Friendly State – only the 2nd in the nation to do so.