Ask Joan: The need for age-friendly communities
June 17, 2024

Q.  I’ve lived in Massachusetts my whole life and can’t imagine living anywhere else. I feel a real “sense of community” in my town, where we work together to keep our neighborhoods safe and welcoming. As I get older, I’m noticing things that make staying in my town difficult. There isn’t convenient transportation for people who don’t drive, housing is becoming less affordable, and it takes so long to get appointments with my doctors. How do we make our communities easier to stay in as we age?

A. Like you, I’ve lived in Massachusetts, and the Merrimack Valley, all my life. It’s been a wonderful place to raise my family, and I have no plans to leave. As we all age, however, our needs change and we want to live in communities that support those needs.

Joan Hatem-Roy, Chief Executive Officer

An age-friendly community is one that works well for people of ALL ages. It allows us to live, work, socialize, and take care of our health more easily. For example, an age friendly community might be one where you can easily find transportation to local medical providers, or where you can purchase healthy, inexpensive groceries close to home. It could also include safe and affordable housing for all, or adequate opportunities for civic engagement and employment.

Another key component of an age-friendly community is that it has the right supports for people to age at home if that is their choice. At AgeSpan, we work closely with older adults, people with disabilities, and family caregivers to ensure those services are accessible to everyone.

Massachusetts is also one of only a dozen states designated as age friendly by AARP. Of course, what makes a state like Massachusetts age-friendly differs from town to town, and it’s important to incorporate what people who live in the community need and want.

AgeSpan, in partnership with the Executive Office of Elder Affairs, will be co-hosting two listening sessions to gather information about what would make our communities and state more age friendly. The first session is June 27 at the Salem Council on Aging, with another session in Spanish on July 23 at the Lawrence Council on Aging.

Join us at one of these sessions and share your experience and perspective. To register, call us at 978-946-1298.

Are you caring for an older adult or need help finding healthy aging resources? Our experienced staff is available to help. Visit us online at You can also call 800-892-0890 or email

Joan Hatem-Roy is the chief executive officer of AgeSpan, which serves the following cities and towns: Amesbury, Andover, Billerica, Boxford, Chelmsford, Danvers, Dracut, Dunstable, Georgetown, Groveland, Haverhill, Lawrence, Lowell, Marblehead, Merrimac, Methuen, Middleton, Newbury, Newburyport, North Andover, Peabody, Rowley, Salisbury, Salem, Tewksbury, Tyngsboro, Westford, and West Newbury.

First published in the Eagle-Tribune.

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