* Editor's note: The AARP Community Challenge Grant Program is open to local governments, and applications are due by 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time on Thursday, May 16. The commentary below details the grant program, as well as AARP's other work among communities. *

By Nancy LeaMond

For the last decade, AARP has been working in partnership with local governments and community leaders to create places where people of all ages can thrive – what the organization calls “Livable Communities.”  When AARP started this work, it was responding to two important trends that continue to inform and drive our efforts:  the aging of America and the reality that local is where the action is when it comes to community change. 

By 2035, for the first time in our history, America will be home to more adults age 65 and up than to children age 18 and under.  The 65 and older population is expected to more than double in major metropolitan areas —  from Seattle and Las Vegas to Minneapolis and Orlando —  by 2030 compared to 2010. And, this trend will be even more pronounced in our nation’s small towns and rural counties which are already disproportionately older than other parts of the country. 

The progress that is happening across the country as communities rise to the challenge of helping older residents stay independent as they age is heartening. Driving these efforts is a growing understanding that the things that make communities more welcoming and supportive of older residents are the same things that help their children and grandchildren thrive -- safe, walkable streets; affordable, accessible housing and transportation options; access to jobs, healthcare and education; and opportunities to participate in community life.

Across the country, local officials and community leaders are on the front lines of positive change – and AARP staff and volunteers based in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands are working arm-in-arm with them . . . through advocacy and education, and by rallying community support and rolling up our collective sleeves to get the work done.

AARP is also investing in local change through the AARP Community Challenge grant program. Now in its second year, the Community Challenge program is designed to spark change and improve quality of life for people of all ages by funding quick action projects that have tangible results.  What does "quick action" mean?  AARP will notify grant winners at the end of June, and all projects must be completed by November 5. 

Last year, AARP Community Challenge grants funded projects in 91 communities.  These investments improved accessibility to community gardens for people with physical disabilities in Mobile, Alabama, built bus shelters to make public transit more comfortable and safer in Orange County, North Carolina, and hosted pop-up activities to promote pedestrian safety and public park programming in Buffalo, New York . . and so much more. The average grant was around $8,500, and a lot of really interesting projects requested less than $5,000.

This year, AARP is looking to fund projects focusing on improving transportation and mobility options,  creating vibrant public spaces, and increasing accessible and affordable housing, as well as other improvements that meet a particular community’s needs. 

The program is open to open to 501(c)(3), 501(c)(4) and 501(c)(6) nonprofits and government entities.

Applications must be submitted by 5 p.m. ET, May 16, 2018, and all projects must be completed by November 5, 2018.   For more information or to apply, please visit AARP.org/CommunityChallenge.

Nancy LeaMond, is AARP's executive vice president of state and national affairs, as well as its chief advocacy and engagement officer. She leads government affairs and legislative campaigns and oversees public education campaigns, community engagement, and volunteerism and service for AARP.

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