Renton is the only city in Washington that has been selected as the recipient of a AARP sponsored outdoor fitness park, organized by Fitlot. The park, which offers basically playgrounds for adults and seniors, is set to be located at Cascade Park starting late summer. It’s a $126,000 value that Renton received as part of an initiative where AARP donates a Fitlot to one city in each state.
The fitness park includes three years of programming, where city staff will offer over 50 classes a year at the site. The fitness park will use the participant’s body weight, and is good for all ages.
The choice for the city to be the recipient was an easy one since it worked closely with AARP recently — Renton is on its way to becoming the fourth city in Washington state with an Age-Friendly Community Designation from AARP, in partnership with World Health Organization. The designation is a big win for Renton seniors, that will create policies that put seniors into the discussion during all city business and development.
Neighborhood Programs Director Maryjane Van Cleave said the designation acknowledges the aging population in Renton, and increased improvements to city infrastructure helps seniors but also everyone else.
A city built for an 80 year old is built for an eight year old, that’s part of the mission behind the designation. The designation asks a city for a five year plan, with surveys and listening sessions with the community, that ultimately lead to planning changes for both outdoor spaces and the social environment. The cities that have completed the five year plan so far since the designation program began in 2012, now say planning for seniors is “muscle memory,” according to AARP Washington Communications Specialist Christina Clem.
Clem means it when she says planning for an 80 year old can help the whole community. Clem recently broke her foot and said she noticed her limited mobility made it hard for her to cross a street in time of the walk sign. Extending crosswalk times are just one of the many things cities under the designation are encouraged to improve.
The aging baby boomer generation is not the only priority, Clem said, adding that the millennial population is even bigger.
“So we’re putting things in place for the future generation,” she said.
The city has pursued multiple grants for supporting seniors through King County. The 2018 grants helped them assess senior needs and remodel parts of the Renton Senior Activity Center. Another in 2019 will help them create the age-friendly action plan to get the AARP designation.
City staff told council at the March 2 Committee of the Whole meeting that they looked at multiple initiatives to use the 2019 grant money, but were most impressed with the AARP designation initiative. Last year former Mayor Denis Law put together a Senior Advisory Task Force, which saw the designation as a good way to put the efforts of each city department together.
Tacoma, Seattle and Puyallup are the other cities with the AARP designation in the state.
More information on the designation is available at aarp.org/livable-communities/network-age-friendly-communities. The city will also release a senior-specific webpage during its work on the designation in the future.