A global initiative designed to help people of all ages have better access to housing and transportation is marking five years in the Pittsburgh region.
Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald and Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto joined forces in September 2015 to get the region involved in the program. On Tuesday they were joined by more than 20 other people to celebrate five years of the program in the region.
People from more than 100 organizations are part of the Age-Friendly program and they’re working together to improve people’s access to services and preserve their connections to the community, said executive director Laura Poskin.
They include city and county social service organizations, nonprofits and places like the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh and Frick Environmental Center.
Although it aims to be inclusive of all age groups, the focus is on older residents and keeping them connected to others in the community.
In Allegheny County, nearly 20% of the 1.2 million people who live in the county are older than 65. The number of people in the 65-plus demographic will nearly double by 2030 in Southwestern Pennsylvania and there will be a 75% increase in people older than 85, Age-Friendly Greater Pittsburgh noted in its 2020 progress report.
In 15 years, there may be more older adults than children in the region, AARP Volunteer Linda Wortham said during the virtual celebration.
People in the older age group need safe, walkable streets and housing, Wortham said.
They also have been vulnerable during the coronavirus pandemic, she said.
It’s an issue that one of Age-Friendly Pittsburgh’s partners, ACCESS Transportation Systems Inc., has addressed, said Cassandra Masters, its outreach and communications manager.
ACCESS has helped to deliver 50,000 meals and 5,000 boxes of protective equipment since April because of the pandemic, Masters said.
ACCESS operated with the Port Authority of Allegheny County and generally provides shared-rides for people with disabilities, older adults and clients of social service agencies, Masters said.
Another program sponsored in part by Age-Friendly Pittsburgh is the Virtual Senior Academy that’s supported by the Jewish Healthcare Foundation.
The academy helped older adults maintain community connections through the pandemic.
The people who are working with Age-Friendly Pittsburgh are pillars of the community, Peduto said.
“I can only say thank you,” Peduto said as he presented a joint proclamation he and Fitzgerald presented to Age-Friendly Pittsburgh. “This year has been, hopefully a year we never have to live through again.”
Tom Davidson is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tom at 724-226-4715,firstname.lastname@example.org via Twitter.