Partnerships Help Communities Get Traction on Pressing Issues

Posted on October 5, 2020

“Nothing about us without us.”

That phrase – commonly used in the world of advocacy – was cited by one of the keynote speakers of the Age-Friendly Communities NJ: New Relevance, during the third session of the virtual conference on Sept. 29.

Amy St. Peter of the Maricopa Association of Governments used that adage to make the point that older adults, of course, need to play a prominent role in shaping age-friendly efforts.

Other participants in that session, called “Uncommon Collaborations,” also gave advice about how to build broad partnerships and how to use the power of these partnerships to shape policies and programs in a community.

Ann Lippel, chair of the Montclair Senior Citizens Advisor Committee, shared with conference attendees the story of how older adults in Montclair helped build New Jersey’s second age-friendly community movement by inviting a variety of community partners to join the effort. More than five years later, the “circle is complete” in the Lifelong Montclair movement, with other community leaders and older adults no longer acting like “invited guests” but instead now help set the agenda as efforts move forward, Lippel said.

Antron D. Watson, of AARP Massachusetts’ community outreach team, stressed the importance of holding meetings outside of halls of government and senior centers and instead moving them into neighborhoods and uncommon settings where more diverse participants can be recruited.

As these broad coalitions develop, it’s also important to persuade government leaders to designate someone to work with the citizens and serve as a “staff champion” for the cause, said Cathy Boyer-Shesol, project manager of KC Communities for All Ages.

Click here to view a recording of that discussion.

After the morning presentation on Day 3, the conference separated into interactive breakout sessions on topics that related to age-friendly work, with participants discussing how to use partnerships to make headway on these critical policy issues.

Click on the topic names to view recordings of these engaging discussions.

Mobility and Transportation: Featuring Karen J. Alexander of the New Jersey Travel Independence Program; John Crouthamel of Tri-Town 55+, a coalition, serving Madison, Chatham Borough and Chatham Township; and Janelle Rivera, lead liaison for NJ TRANSIT’s Senior Citizens and Disabled Residents Transportation Advisory Committee and New Jersey Council on Access and Mobility.

Food Insecurity: Featuring Lisa Bontemps, coordinator for Westwood for All Ages; Carlos Herrera, assistant project manager of Lifelong Elizabeth; and Kathi Viola, prevention coalition coordinator for Garfield.

Housing and Community Development: Featuring Elizabeth Davis, project director of Age-Friendly Teaneck, and Tim Evans and Tanya Rohrbach, both of New Jersey Future.

Communications: Featuring Janet Sharma, coordinator of Age-Friendly Englewood and Cathy Rowe, coordinator for the joint age-friendly program for South Orange and Maplewood.

Resource Coordination: Featuring Laura Sostak and John Hoover of Tri-Town 55+ Coalition and Sgt. Jeff Stewart, commander of the Garfield Police Community Affairs Division and project coordinator of Generations for Garfield.

Community Visioning: Featuring Isaac D. Kremer, executive director of the Metuchen Downtown Alliance and Christine Newman, director of community outreach and volunteer engagement for AARP New Jersey.

Click here to register and see below to learn more details about the next session on Oct. 6