Research News

IDEA Center to partner with Erie County on Age-Friendly project

Concept of universal design featuring human figures of differing abilities including figures with crutches, canes, with seeing-eye dog and in a wheelchair.

UB's IDEA Center will work with Erie County to incorporate universal design principles into initiatives that are crucial to seniors.

By DAVID J. HILL

Published November 21, 2019

“This grant will allow Erie County to partner with UB’s Center for Inclusive Design and Environmental Access to implement initiatives identified in the Live Well Erie process that are crucial to our older population. This is another example of county government helping ensure residents’ golden years are truly golden.”
Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz

UB’s Center for Inclusive Design and Environmental Access (IDEA Center) is partnering with Erie County on a project to integrate design and livable communities strategies across all county departments.

The center, which is housed within the School of Architecture and Planning, and Erie County are the recipients of a $100,000 grant from the Health Foundation for Western and Central New York.

The Health Foundation awards will help support development of Age-Friendly Centers of Excellence in Erie, Tompkins and Oneida counties, and are part of a partnership with the New York State Office for the Aging’s Age-Friendly Planning Grant Program. The initiative is designed to help communities and local governments incorporate healthy, age-friendly community principles into all relevant policies, plans and programs.

Goals for the Erie County-IDEA Center program include incorporating universal design into public spaces, technology training for older adults, establishing a homeshare program for older adults and improving access to public transportation.

These efforts will align with and accelerate the recently launched Live Well Erie initiative, a collaborative to improve the health and well-being of children, working families and seniors in Erie County.

“Erie County is proud to accept this grant and to be able to accelerate its work of becoming an age-friendly community. Through the Live Well Erie effort, my administration has an ambitious agenda for supporting our older adults,
County Executive Mark Poloncarz said.

“This grant will allow Erie County to partner with UB’s Center for Inclusive Design and Environmental Access to implement initiatives identified in the Live Well Erie process that are crucial to our older population. This is another example of county government helping ensure residents’ golden years are truly golden,” Poloncarz added.

Brittany Perez, the IDEA Center’s director of outreach and engagement, will be serving as co-chair for Live Well Erie’s older adults work group, which will collaborate extensively with the Age-Friendly Center of Excellence.

“The IDEA Center is thrilled that the leadership in Erie County sees value in weaving universal design into the fabric of Live Well Erie and across their departments,” Perez said.

“Universal design is a process that can be used to create inclusive buildings and spaces, programs, products and policies to increase community participation for people of all ages. Our partnership with the county will put universal design research into practice, and our team is looking forward to participating in New York State’s Age-Friendly learning collaborative to learn and share best practices,” she added.

The IDEA Center will assist Erie County with the coordination, planning and implementation of the portion of the Live Well Erie efforts focused on older adults. Toward that end, the Live Well Erie plan aims to:

  • Promote active and stimulating social opportunities throughout the lifespan.
  • Improve the accessibility of Erie County facilities to people of all ages and abilities.
  • Help older adults maintain financial security as they age.

These community-informed priorities will guide the efforts of the proposed project to implement an action plan for the Age-Friendly Community of Excellence in Erie County.

In addition, the project will allow the IDEA Center to hire two graduate students who will assist with the Age-Friendly Erie County website and related social media channels, as well as facilitation and community development.

The IDEA Center has been an important partner in Erie County’s Age-Friendly efforts since the county joined the AARP Network of Age-Friendly Communities in 2014. The IDEA Center was also an active participant in the Live Well Erie planning process.