Guest Post: Quick Actions lead to Long Term Change

Quick Actions lead to Long Term Change
Apply by April 17 for grants focused on Smart Cities, transportation, housing or public spacess

by Jean Setzfand, Senior Vice President for Programs, AARP

Communities are learning laboratories where local leaders are working to creatively identify solutions to problems that improve the lives of their residents. As the United States population ages, many local leaders are working to focus these learning laboratories to create great places for people of all ages.

Through offices in every state and U.S. territories, AARP is working in partnership with local government leaders, businesses, community groups and residents to help make that happen. Today, more than 330 locations — from small, rural communities to our nation’s biggest cities—have joined AARP’s Network of Age-Friendly States and Communities, demonstrating a commitment to achieving livability goals that include:

  • Safe, affordable housing and transportation options;
  • Opportunities to learn, support our families and enjoy our lives;
  • Connections with our neighbors; and
  • Governments that are responsive to our needs.

It’s clear that it can take a long time and a lot of hard work to build these great communities. But, we also believe that quick actions can be a critical spark for longer-term progress. In this, we take to heart the sage words of the former Hollywood Squares host, Peter Marshall, who stated that “Small deeds done are better than great deeds planned.”

 In the above photo, hackers and community members collaborate during the City of Seattle’s “City for All” technology hackathon which was funded through the Community Challenge in 2017. (Credit: Michael B. Maine)

True to this belief, AARP launched the AARP Community Challenge grant program to fund projects that help build momentum to improve livability for residents of all ages. Since 2017, we have helped take nearly 220 projects from “deeds planned” to “deeds done” in every state and several U.S. territories.

I’m delighted to announce that AARP is now accepting applications for the 2019 Community Challenge though Wednesday, April 17, 2019, 11:59 p.m. ET. Applications must be submitted through and the program is open to 501(c)(3), 501(c)(4) and 501(c)(6) nonprofits and government entities. Grants can range from several thousand for larger projects to several hundred dollars for small, short-term activities. All projects must be completed by November 4, 2019.

This year we have expanded the Community Challenge to include applications that focus on ways to demonstrate the tangible value of “Smart Cities.” We want this new category encourage applicants to demonstrate new ways develop and implement innovative programs that engage residents in accessing, understanding, and using data to increase quality of life for all.

In addition to our new focus on “Smart Cities” we will also accept applications in the following categories:

  • Deliver a range of transportation and connectivity options through permanent or temporary solutions that increase walkability, bikeability, wayfinding, access to transportation options                       and roadway improvements.
  • Create vibrant public places through permanent or temporary solutions that activate open spaces, improve parks and improve access to amenities.
  • Support the availability of a range of housing through permanent or temporary solutions that increase accessible and affordable housing options.
  • Other innovative approaches to improving the community.

To see examples in these categories from previous years click here.

We know that there is an endless supply of ideas to improve communities across the country. And, we want to help you turn some of those ideas into action. I hope that you’ll take a few minutes to apply for funding to do that through the AARP Community Challenge!

Jean Setzfand is the Senior Vice President for Programs at AARP. Jean leads a team that produces interactive educational programming designed to address the health, wealth and personal enrichment concerns of consumers age 50 and older. You can follow her on Twitter: @jsetz.