I recently had the honor of representing H.O.M.E. at the Midsommarfest community festival in Chicago’s north side Andersonville neighborhood. I was there at performances by the wonderful Chicago Spirit Brigade, whose event fundraising went to H.O.M.E., and my role was to thank attendees for their donations.
As I stood on the stage thanking the crowd, my thoughts were not simply about H.O.M.E. and our specific building communities, rather they went to the larger issues of what makes for a successful community, and how can we develop and maintain communities where residents can “age-in-community”. Note that I use wording that focuses on the broad notion of “aging-in-community” rather than what I see as the more limited idea of “aging-in-place”.
As reiterated in H.O.M.E.’s newly-adopted 2017-2022 Strategic Plan, “community” is one of our core values, and I will be reflecting on issues of community in this blog posting and in periodic future blog postings.
From my vantage point on the Midsommarfest stage, I could sense evidence of many of the things that I consider important within a community. It was easy to see the diverse group of people who all came out to engage in their community’s life, I could hear a diversity of language and culture in the languages being spoken and the music being performed, and I could certainly smell (& selectively taste) a fabulous range of food being prepared & sold by numerous vendors.
I could see along the several blocks of Clark Street closed for the street festival numerous neighborhood-scale stores, restaurants, and amenities and services. I could also see proud displays of arts and culture provided by artists of every type who were displaying wares at kiosks and on street corners.
Less visible, but certainly every bit as important, I could see evidence of the many committed community-based organizations that helped sponsor and stage Midsommarfest, and use it as a platform for engaging with community residents. And I know that behind the scenes were numerous public, private and not-for-profit sector stakeholders working in a coordinated fashion to help ensure that the event was safe, accessible, environmentally friendly, and balanced the needs of the many different community stakeholders.
You might be wondering by now what these musings have to do with H.O.M.E. and its mission. You might think of H.O.M.E. as an organization that focuses on providing affordable housing for older adults, often in the intergenerational settings of our Good Life Senior Residences. Read our Good Life webpage, and note its mention of places “where older adults can retain independence, interact with people of all ages, and contribute to the community“.
We strongly believe in this model, but we also recognize that “community” doesn’t begin and end at the doors of our dwellings, even wonderful ones like the Good Life Senior Residences.
Community should be thought of as dwellings within the context of the assets and amenities of their neighborhoods, and standing on the Midsommarfest stage reminded me not only of how proud I am to be part of H.O.M.E. and the wonderful dwellings we operate, but of how important it is that we build and maintain not only fine buildings but also healthy communities in which “aging-in-community” is a real appealing opportunity.
I will share more thoughts on “aging-in-community” in future blog postings.
-- Brad Winick
Brad serves on the H.O.M.E. Board of Directors. He is an urban planner who focuses his work on the intersection of planning and aging in his consultancy at Planning/Aging. Brad is an adjunct professor at UIC’s College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs. He serves on the Board of Directors at Age Options and is an on the Advisory Board of Age-Friendly Chicago.
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