Creating Community for a Lifetime

About Us


Preliminary Activities

A growing aging population raises many questions:

To begin to address these questions, the Grand Rapids Community Foundation embarked in mid-2002 on a Senior-Friendly Community Initiative with the aim of:

The Community Foundation contracted with the Community Research Institute at Grand Valley State University to provide baseline research on demographic trends, issues relating to an aging population, and best practices from other communities. As a result, the study Creating Communities of Support for Kent County's Aging Population, explores what needs to be done at the local level to prepare for the aging of the population.

Next, the Foundation asked Dotti Clune and Jeannie Hosey, planning and communications consultants, to develop a situational analysis of community planning to address aging issues in Kent County and suggest approaches for launching a community-wide planning process in Kent County, based on further research of local, state and national resources.

Their research showed that a wide variety of services and programs are available to support older adults in Kent County. However, system-wide planning - aimed at identifying opportunities, determining priorities, and developing indicators of progress - has taken place only to a limited degree. At the same time, there is broad acknowledgment that the complexity of the system of support often makes it difficult for consumers to find and access appropriate services. Combined with the aging boom that is now in progress, these factors created a strong imperative for community-wide planning to address aging issues.

Such planning is the focus of the Creating Community for a Lifetime initiative, which sought to explore ideas about what constitutes an elder-friendly community and to articulate a shared vision for Kent County as an aging-friendly community.

Phase 1

The initial work of the initiative focused on community learning and information gathering. Between May and October 2004 the 80-plus members of the Core Council and Community Advisory Team participated in a variety of learning opportunities, beginning with a kickoff presentation featuring aging expert Marc Freedman and featuring subsequent speakers and reading materials. Community Forum Summary and Findings

At the same time, the initiative undertook a comprehensive community survey, in collaboration with the national AdvantAge Initiative, to develop a "data snapshot" of how well older adults in the community are faring. Preliminary findings of the survey are consistent with those of similar AdvantAge Initiative surveys taken in communities around the country. These findings indicate that a sizable majority of older adults want to age in place - to stay in their homes and in their neighborhoods. Survey Results

The findings also indicate that the majority of older adults are thriving. They're in good health, connected to friends and family, and generally satisfied with their communities. However, in contrast to this "fortunate majority" is a smaller, though sizable, "frail fraction" of struggling older adults who are in ill health, with inadequate financial security, and without access to the services they need. Complete Phase I Report