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San Diego’s Commitment to Age-Friendly Communities: A Conversation with City of Carlsbad

The San Diego Foundation, with the support of the Del Mar Healthcare Fund, is committed to growing the adoption of age-friendly action plans by local municipalities throughout the region, and to supporting services and initiatives to increase the quality of life of older adults in the community and ultimately all San Diegans.

To date, The San Diego Foundation’s Age-Friendly Communities Program has invested more than $3 million in strategic grants to improve the lives of older adults by partnering with nonprofit organizations and agencies that support age-friendly efforts. Over the next few months, we will share a series of blog posts highlighting the great work of our municipal partners to make the San Diego region a more age-friendly community.

The City of Carlsbad became part of the AARP Livable Communities Network in 2020 and is currently in the process of developing an Age Friendly Action Plan, which it hopes to get approved by the City Council this summer. For this post, we spoke with Joe Stewart, Management Analyst in the Office of Innovation & Economic Development with the City of Carlsbad, about its current age-friendly initiatives.


What about this Age Friendly Action Plan are you most proud of or excited for? 

We are so grateful for the support of AARP, The San Diego Foundation and the technical support from Circulate San Diego. We are incredibly excited that this will be Carlsbad’s very first Age-Friendly Action Plan, and we will be the first community in North County San Diego to take on this project. We have received an incredible response from our community with 635 baseline survey respondents.

We are also proud of how we navigated the community outreach during COVID-19, getting 107 comments on the Social Pinpoint Ideas Wall and Mapping Tools project, which was designed to track community perspectives on age-friendly needs across the city. We also had strong attendance at three Age-Friendly Workshops, with 104 community members attending at least one session. We are looking forward to presenting the final Action Plan to our City Council this summer, and to start implementing some of the exciting action items in the subsequent years to come.

The California Master Plan for Aging has identified “equity and inclusion” as one of its major goals. Have you been able to integrate this concept into your projects? If so, tell us how. 

Carlsbad has a “Community Connections” domain in the Action Plan, which prioritizes programming that will address isolation and the involvement of all residents in community life through specific communication, connection and information-sharing strategies. We have identified intergenerational activities and efforts to combat social isolation as major focus areas of our Action Plan. Even outside of the “Community Connections” domain, all goals and objectives throughout the Action Plan are carefully considered through a commitment to equity and inclusion.

If you have a role in the development of the County’s Age Well San Diego Action Plan, what are you excited about in relation to that project?  

While we have not had a role in this project yet, we are excited to partner with the County and other stakeholders to see if there are coordination efforts on initiatives once Carlsbad’s Action Plan is approved. We believe that our Action Plan, being the first completed in North County, will offer a unique perspective on the challenges, needs and opportunities for older adults in this part of the region, and perhaps can be considered as part of the larger San Diego Action Plan for Aging.

Is there anything you’re doing or aware of in association with your project that relates to policy? Are there any age-friendly-related policies you think people should know about?

Our Action Plan consists of many goals, objectives, and opportunities for programming across the six domains most relevant to Carlsbad: Housing, Outdoor Spaces & Buildings, Transportation, Health & Wellness, Social & Civic Participation and Community Connections. In an effort to start work on implementing some of the suggestions we heard from our community during our public outreach, we’ve begun work on the “Move Carlsbad” campaign, supported by a generous grant from The San Diego Foundation to Circulate San Diego. Services will feature transportation education programs and resource materials targeted towards raising transportation awareness for older adults. There will also be learning opportunities around rideshare, public transportation (bus, Coaster, and Amtrak), Neighborhood Electric Vehicles (NEV’s), and active modes of travel (e-bikes, bikes, tricycles, recumbents, walking).

Feel free to share anything else that you think people should know about as it relates to your project and aging.

Carlsbad is a city with a higher average of older adults per capita, compared to other cities in the County, so we are being as proactive as possible to begin planning for a larger, older population of residents. From our survey work and community outreach, we have learned that Carlsbad’s older adults are incredibly digitally savvy, and will take that into account as we start to implement some of the programs and objectives listed in the Action Plan. We are so excited to cross the finish line of getting our Age Friendly Action Plan approved and becoming a part of this amazing AARP Network of Age-Friendly States and Communities.

Access more information on The San Diego Foundation Age Friendly Communities Initiative here.

Learn more about The AARP Network of Age Friendly Communities here.

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