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Age-Friendly Communities

Advancing insights on how local leaders work with others to make their communities better places to grow up and grow old

Movement in Action

A global age-friendly movement is underway to make cities, towns, and neighborhoods better places to thrive as we age. This movement highlights how our experiences of aging depend on the social, built, and service environments of our local communities. The Age-Friendly Research Team at the Rutgers Hub for Aging Collaboration has partnered with local leaders across New Jersey since 2016 to understand how individuals, groups, and organizations work to make their communities more age-friendly.

A Multi-Year, Collaborative Research Project

The Age-Friendly Research Team began working with communities in northern North Jersey in 2016 when eight communities received funding for age-friendly planning and implementation projects from The Henry and Marilyn Taub Foundation and the Grotta Fund for Older Adults at the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest New Jersey. 

These philanthropic organizations funded our team to conduct a developmental evaluation of the regional grantmaking program. Developmental evaluation involves studying new program models as they evolve and emerge over time. This type of evaluation draws on action research methods to understand new interventions and contribute to their formative development. 

In 2021, our project grew to include new forms of research and practice. We created a new administrative structure called Age-Friendly North Jersey with the two philanthropic organizations. Our team received a grant to co-administer AFNJ while continuing our longitudinal evaluation and research work with the age-friendly community initiatives. As co-administrators, we develop and implement professional development webinars, cultivate leadership among age-friendly leaders, and coordinate state-level age-friendly advocacy. 

Our age-friendly research and practice, and relationship with the funders, continues on in new and dynamic ways, exploring pressing issues advancing place-based social innovations for aging.

Vector image of project timeline five circles for each stage
Vector image of project timeline five circles for each stage

Age-Friendly Practice

Age-Friendly North Jersey

Age-Friendly North Jersey is an alliance of leaders strengthening communities for all ages. It includes individuals, groups, and organizations from more than 20 communities across six counties in New Jersey. The formation of the alliance was fueled by the Age-Friendly Research Team’s evaluation findings that age-friendly community leaders valued opportunities to connect with, learn from, and coordinate action with their peers from other communities.

The New Jersey Age-Friendly Statewide Collaborative 

The Collaborative is a cross-sectoral network of organizations committed to advancing the age-friendly communities movement across New Jersey. Its goal is to expand and strengthen local age-friendly efforts across New Jersey’s diverse communities, as well as to advance age-friendly policy principles at the state level. The Age-Friendly Research Team is an active member of this network. 

The New Jersey Age-Friendly Advisory Council

The Council was a Governor-appointed committee led by the New Jersey Department of Human Services, Division of Aging Services. Membership included individuals from state government agencies, as well as statewide nonprofits, advocacy organizations, and higher education. The Council concluded its work in August 2023, advising the State on the development of a blueprint to foster age-friendly communities. This work emanated from the State joining the AARP Network of Age-Friendly States and Communities in 2021.

The National Network of Superstructures for Age-Friendly Communities 

This network is a national group of organizations that are supporting age-friendly communities within a specific region. The group formed from a collaborative session at the American Society on Aging conference in 2022. The Age-Friendly Research Team at the Rutgers Hub for Aging Collaboration helped to establish the network in partnership with the University of Maine Center on Aging.

Learn More About Our Work

Browse below to learn more about findings from this project. For a full list of publications, click here.

Peer-Reviewed Publications on Age-Friendly Practice

“I’m part of something that Matters”: Exploring what older adults value through their engagement in age-friendly community initiatives

Older adults’ engagement in age-friendly community (AFC) initiatives is considered an essential element of community transformation. However, research on older adults’ experiences of engaging in AFC initiatives remains nascent. This study develops insights into what older adults across four states in the U.S. value from their age-friendly engagement. 

Statewide age-friendly virtual fair as a tactic for social change across the aging ecosystem

Prior studies highlighted that events are deliberately multi-organizational, multi-sectoral, and multi-level and can help to further propel the age-friendly movement toward systems change for aging in community. This paper explores how the 2022 Age-Friendly Virtual Fair exemplifies and extends these findings beyond local community development toward state-level ecosystems.

Despite the heightened need for community supports during the COVID-19 pandemic, very little research has addressed the work of age-friendly community (AFC) initiatives in the context of the crisis. This paper summarizes distinct roles of AFC initiatives–as well as the types of human, tangible, and social capital they drew upon–as they served older adults during the pandemic.

The Age-Friendly Communities Movement has long centered the involvement of older adults’ participation in changemaking efforts. But how exactly are older adults engaging in this work? This article delineates five categories of participation (consumer, informant, task assistant, champion, core group members) and describes implications for practice and research.

Multisectoral collaboration is considered essential for age-friendly community change. This article discusses the ways in which age-friendly organizations interact and the implications of this characterization for guiding research, evaluation, and policy to optimize AFCI implementation and impact across diverse settings.

Events are commonly recognized as key practice elements of implementing AFC initiatives, but their specific strategic yield is little understood. This study explores how AFC leaders facilitate events and what they perceive as the value of events, theorizing that events can strategically build relational capacity to sustain age-friendly progress within broader community systems.

Evaluation Reports from Our Work with Age-Friendly North Jersey

Age-friendly community initiatives in their maturity: Insights from a multi-year grantmaking program in New Jersey

This report explores age-friendly progress among a cohort of age-friendly initiatives seven years into their implementation process. The report focuses on the range of accomplishments achieved by the initiatives and the variation in operational statuses as the initiatives worked to navigate beyond their initial grantmaking program.

Other Publications on Age-Friendly Communities

This paper works to enrich age-friendly multi-sector practice by highlighting how prominent theories and frameworks of community community collaboration (asset-based community development, strategic doing, collective impact) can enhance the work of engagement, planning, implementation, and measurement. This paper further encourages researchers and practitioners to approach age-friendly work from a community-building approach.

Introducing a special age-friendly focused issues of the Journal of Aging & Social Policy, this paper describes the growth and progress of the age-friendly movement and the corresponding body of research exploring these social innovations. In addition to highlighting the articles in the special issue, this essay further identified key challenges for age-friendly practice and policy spanning impact, reach, and sustainability.

Age-friendly initiatives, social inequalities, and spatial justice

This article highlights the ways in which social inequalities and spatial justice manifest in age-friendly work. While not specifically designed to address inequality, age-friendly efforts are poised to advance policies at the local level that can reduce spatialized population health disparities in later life. However, age-friendly efforts can also exacerbate placed-based aging inequalities to the extent that communities with greater pre-existing capital are more likely to engage in age-friendly work.

Recordings of Select Presentations and Events

Harnessing the Momentum of Bergen's Age-Friendly Counties

This presentation by Dr. Emily Greenfield explores insights about how to build upon and expand the growing age-friendly movement in New Jersey within Bergen County. Drawing upon multi-years of community-engaged research, this presentation highlights the types of resources needed to advance age-friendly efforts, as well as several key practice recommendations to build and sustain these efforts.

The Age-Friendly Virtual Fair featured 34 “table” presentations that showcased the diverse age-friendly work throughout New Jersey, including topics such as home- and community-based services, arts, transportation, LGBTQ+ aging, research, getting started, age-inclusivity within higher education, age-friendly health systems, and more. (Fair organized in partnership among the Rutgers Hub for Aging Collaboration, The Henry and Marilyn Taub Foundation, The Grotta Fund for Older Adults, and New Jersey Advocates for Aging Well)

This program presents an overview of municipal committees on aging in New Jersey as a key structure to advance age-friendly community progress. It also features speakers from communities in both northern and southern New Jersey, who describe ways in which older adults can be involved in and benefit from such committees. (Presentation organized in honor of Older Americans Month in May 2023 in partnership with the Rutgers Hub for Aging Collaboration, Age-Friendly North Jersey, and the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Rutgers)

Partnering Across Sectors to Strengthen Community-Based Social Innovations for Aging

This presentation features Dr. Emily Greenfield (Director of the Hub for Aging Collaboration), who provides a conceptual overview of community gerontology and how it can spur multisectoral, sustainable, and equitable community-based social innovations for aging. (Presentation organized by the Gilbrea Centre at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada)

Toward an Age-Friendly Ecosystem in NJ: Insights from Bergen County

This panel provides an overview of the age-friendly community grantmaking program through Age-Friendly North Jersey. It features key research findings of the Rutgers Age-Friendly Research Team, alongside local leaders’ experiences of planning and implementing age-friendly community initiatives since 2015. (Panel organized as part of a meeting of the New Jersey Age-Friendly Advisory Council meeting)

Contact the Age-Friendly Research Team 

Reach out to the Age-Friendly Research Team if you are interested in learning more about our work or collaborating on future projects. 

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