This August, the first Intergenerational Resident Leadership Academy will start in Chula Vista.

For 12 weeks, 20 older adult residents of the area and Chula Vista High School students will learn how to become involved in city government and the school district, and to promote health and wellness in their community. Together, they will identify a community need and take action to address it.

This project exemplifies Age-Friendly Chula Vista: We want our city to be a good place to grow up and to grow older. We want to understand and meet the unique needs of our diverse population, including older adults.

By 2030, the number of people 65 and over is expected to double in the region, and people over 50 are expected to account for more than half of US GDP by 2032.

[pullquote]We can’t afford to miss this opportunity to help shape Chula Vista’s future.[/pullquote]

As a result, Chula Vista is working to meet the needs of this population and ensure that there are opportunities to meaningfully include them in our social fabric. We can’t afford to miss this opportunity to help shape Chula Vista’s future.

That’s why we embarked on our age-friendly journey in 2016 with support from The San Diego Foundation.

By officially joining the AARP Network of Age-Friendly Communities, Chula Vista committed to becoming an inclusive and accessible community for people of all ages and abilities. By considering how to make the city work for older adults when it comes to housing, transportation, health, employment, and other critical aspects of livability, we are ultimately making Chula Vista work for everyone.

In our first year in the Age-Friendly Communities Network, we have listened and learned so that we can be ready to lead. We have distributed community surveys, hosted seven Community Cafes, and presented to various city commissions, held community education workshops, and screened films that sparked community dialogue. We have made a conscious effort to engage people who are traditionally left out of public decision making, visiting senior and affordable housing complexes, holding events at our high schools and conducting activities in Spanish so that everyone’s ideas of what makes a livable community inform our efforts.

These conversations are influencing our work in Chula Vista and the actions of grassroots advocates in our community.

For example, we have learned that promoting social connections and preventing isolation is a major priority for older adults in our area. They are right to be concerned: one in five adults nationally is affected by isolation, and prolonged isolation can be as harmful for health as smoking 15 cigarettes per day.

[pullquote]These conversations are influencing our work in Chula Vista and the actions of grassroots advocates in our community.[/pullquote]

In response to this need, this year’s Castle Park Resident Leadership graduates envisioned an event that could bring people together in their neighborhoods and serve as a foundation for lasting relationships. They successfully planned and advocated for it, and the City Council declared May 6 as “Neighbor Day” in Chula Vista. The graduates hosted a pancake breakfast and gave each City Council member a handmade flower in the spirit of the day and the social connections it is intended to foster.

This small step shows that our political leaders and community advocates can come together to create a community where everyone is able to thrive.

And we’ve only just begun.

In the coming year, we will use everything we’ve learned and, alongside community members, create a Community Action Plan that will infuse age-friendly principles into everything we do as a City and help us work with advocates, residents, and other organizations and governments toward a common vision.

Together, we can make Chula Vista and the San Diego region the livable and age-friendly community we all want and need it to be.

Create a More Age-Friendly Region

About Stacey Kurz

Stacey Kurz is Senior Project Coordinator for the Healthy Chula Vista Initiative. Through her leadership and support, the City of Chula Vista works in partnership with a variety of agencies throughout the community to respond to identified barriers to healthy living options in the City, and collaborate on events and efforts to promote health and well-being in the community.