Communities are places where people can live, work and play — and age in place.
To that end, AARP announced Tuesday it is accepting applications for the 2022 Community Challenge grant program. The quick-action grants are part of AARP’s Livable Communities initiative and support upgrades that can lead to long-term community changes.
“We’re excited to kick off the Community Challenge again in 2022 to continue helping communities across Florida become great places for people of all backgrounds, abilities and ages, especially people 50-plus,” AARP Florida State Director Jeff Johnson said in a prepared release. “Over time, the program has proven that quick-action projects can lead to long-lasting improvements benefiting older adults and their families.”
An AARP panel of experts in aging and community design review the applications with an eye on submissions that, if approved, make immediate alterations that can lead to permanent long-term changes to help residents age in place.
Applications will be prioritized if they support communities’ efforts to create vibrant spaces or deliver transportation and mobility options that promote walkability, bike ability and access to transportation.
AARP received nearly 1,200 applications and distributed nearly $780,000 in grants to 88 winning grantees in 2017. The Town of Cutler Bay Parks and Recreation was awarded a grant to purchase and install fitness equipment under a shade canopy in a park that hosts activities for older adults. Streets Alive of Southwest Florida in Fort Myers and the Florida Consumer Action Network Foundation in St. Petersburg used their grant funds to host Open Streets events.
Since then, interest in the grant program has grown annually and so has the amount of money AARP awards.
Since 2017, AARP has awarded more than 800 grants through the Community Challenge program to nonprofit organizations and governments in every state as well as the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
In 2021 alone, 3,560 applications were submitted, and AARP earmarked nearly $3.2 million in funds toward 244 projects, including eight across Florida.
To date, 24 grants have been awarded to Florida applicants between 2017 and 2021.
AARP supports aging-in-place initiatives because they help keep people out of institutional care such as nursing homes.
Aging in place requires built environments where streets are designed and planned to maintain accessible, convenient and safe travel for people of all ages and abilities, concepts promoted by the Department of Transportation through the Complete Streets program.
Forty percent of the winning applications have benefitted rural communities, 20% have been awarded to suburban locations and 40% have been targeted to improving urban places, according to a press release.
Applications must be submitted by 5 p.m. Eastern Standard Time March 22.
All projects must be completed by Nov. 30, 2022.