At the December 18 meeting, the town council welcomed two members of the Southern New Hampshire Planning Commission, Sylvia von Aulock, Executive Director and Adam Hlasny, Transportation Planner. In 2015, the commission received grant funding to work with their 14 communities and how to become age-friendly for all residents.
They have listened to the worries of the senior community, who want to know what they can do when they are no longer able to drive, how to get affordable housing, and how to be relevant in their community and be actively engaged. The commission has also gotten input from the millennials in their communities, especially because some young adults in New Hampshire are leaving the state after graduating from college.
It was important to von Aulock to listen to what the community had to say and there were four important points that the commission has focused on transportation/accessibility, housing trends/affordability, recreation/engagement, and business and economic development. Although some people may not be able to make meeting of the Planning Commission, online surveys have been made available to residents. There have been 641 participants in their online surveys, 24 of which belonging to the Londonderry community.
Phase one for the commission was to create assessments of the communities based on the four points mentioned previously. After the assessments, the commission was granted funding to move onto phase two, assisting up to three communities to go from the assessment phase into a “pilot program” to answer the questions “how do we age gracefully?” and “how do we keep the young adults here in the communities?” Adam Hlasny shared his research on what an age-friendly community can look like. Saco and Biddeford, Maine were two towns studied by the commission that are considered age-friendly. Each of these towns has a population of about 20,000 and both became an age-friendly community in 2015. They have been working on handyman programs for minor home repair services, a community resource directory, and most recently having a later start time for middle and high school students. The start time was moved from 7:30 AM to 8:30 AM and there has been an improvement in grades and fewer absences from this switch. Hlasny noted that this program is not a “one-size fits all” program and can be adopted to fit the needs of the community in the program.
After the presentation, von Aulock asked the town council for their level of interest in this pilot program. Each community is encouraged to send in a letter of interest if they would like to be one of their pilot communities. They are accepting letters up until January 19. The next step for the town council will be determining their level of interest in being one of three pilot programs and submitting a letter of interest by January 19.