Ferndale Gets State Designation for Considering Needs of Seniors
(Crystal A. Proxmire, Sept. 25, 2019)
Ferndale, MI – The City of Ferndale has been designated by the State of Michigan as a “Community for a Lifetime,” meaning that it is intentionally creating an environment where residents can feel comfortable at any stage of life, including the later years.
Councilperson Raylon Leaks-May works with older adults by providing resources through the Area Agency on Agining 1-B, and has been active in working on solutions to affordable housing needs which impacts older adults who hope to stay in Ferndale even when they can no longer live in a large house. She and a team of volunteers took on the project of completing the State Assessment to become certified.
That was a two year process that involved community surveys, working with city departments and stakeholders to recognize successes and come up with plans for improvements, and collaborating with the state.
Dan Doezema of the Adult and Aging Services attended Mondays city council meeting to present the designation. “What’s good for the elder one is good for everyone,” he said as he explained the little ways communities can encourage accessibility both in public buildings and accommodations, but also in development. Simple things like having ramps instead of steps, or door handles that push down instead of turn have little to no effect on aesthetic, but make it easier for kids, adults, and people with mobility challenges to be comfortable.
One area that Doezema said he was most impressed with is the City’s attention to complete streets. Having bike lanes, enhanced crosswalks, and advocacy for public transpiration are key components for people with mobility issues to be able to get around.
The premise of the program is for municipalities to ask, “Is my community a good one to group in and to grow old in?” Doezema said.
The two year process was tackled mainly by a team of four, Leaks-May said. She recognized the President of the Ferndale Seniors Jeannie Davis as well as Kathleen LaTosch of Ferndale Inclusion Network, and Ann Langford who was with AAA 1-B for their help. The group went through the state’s assessment checklist, looking at many aspects of city services and amenities. They also sent surveys to older adults.
“We mailed surveys to 1269 seniors and 479 mailed back,” LaTosch said. “That’s a great response rate for someone to take the time and mail those back to us.” The list came from the absentee voter rolls.
According to the survey, 93% of seniors feel safe in Ferndale. 72% feel welcome. 65% feel comfortable attending city council meetings.
“Many brought up the diversity, even though that wasn’t one of the questions,” LaTosch said.
The results also showed the things seniors want, including:
~not dealing with parking meters.
~snow removal enforced better in the downtown.
~better senior programs.
~to be invited to be involved more in community activities, decisions, and mentorship.
“They don’t know a lot of the programs available to them,” she said. Some examples are the free smoke detectors given by the fire department, and the fact that police will check on someone’s home if they are out of town, or do welfare checks on individuals if they haven’t been heard from by friends or family who are worried about their safety.
Based on the survey, several recommendations were made, including:
~$10 annual parking pass for seniors.
~Review programs and services to see if they could better meet community needs.
~Look at snow removal.
~Having larger print on bus schedules.
~Mail into to seniors rather that solely relying on online info.
~Create a list of reputable home repair companies.
~Compile a list of resources for seniors.
Doezema said that the committee was impressed with the application, particularly the inclusion of suggestions. “You don’t want to just do an assessment and set it on a shelf, you want to do what you can,” he said.
Later in the meeting, Davis shared info on the Ferndale Seniors group. They meet the 2nd and 4th Wednesdays at 11am at the Kulick Community Center. People aged 55 and older are welcome, with a cost of $10 per year for residents and $11 per year for nonresidents.
“We do not play BINGO,” Davis said. “Ain’t gonna happen.”
What the group does, however, is feature an educational, political, or entertaining presentation each meeting, while also having time to socialize and hear announcements. The group also takes bus trips.
“We learned a lot from the staff, council, police, fire department, FernCare, and from the seniors themselves,” Leaks-May said.
Ferndale has already been added to the list of Communities for a Lifetime, joining cities like Auburn Hills, Clawson, Farmington, Farmington Hills,. Outside Oakland County cities include Cheboygan, Escanaba, Gaylord, Holland, Midland, and Traverse City. The Counties of Bay, Harbor, Monroe, St. Joseph, and Washtenaw are also included.
The Communities for a Lifetime website also lists resources for cities to use. City staff will take the recommendations and consider if any changes need to be made to make Ferndale even more welcoming and accessible moving forward.