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Charles City recognized for age-friendliness

  • Iowa AARP President Chuck Betts presented Charles City Mayor Dean Andrews and former mayor Jim Erb with a plaque recognizing the community as an AARP Age-friendly Livable Community on Saturday. (Press photo James Grob.)

  • Iowa AARP President Chuck Betts presented Charles City Mayor Dean Andrews and former mayor Jim Erb with a plaque recognizing the community as an AARP Age-friendly Livable Community on Saturday. (Press photo James Grob.)

  • Iowa AARP President Chuck Betts presented Charles City Mayor Dean Andrews and former mayor Jim Erb with a plaque recognizing the community as an AARP Age-friendly Livable Community on Saturday. (Press photo James Grob.)

By James Grob, jgrob@charlescitypress.com

Nine months ago, former Charles City Mayor James Erb called Iowa AARP Director Brad Anderson and asked him how Charles City could attract more people over the age of 50 to town.

“I listened to him, and I thought, ‘he gets it,’” Anderson said.

Anderson and state AARP President Chuck Betts were in town on Saturday to recognize Charles City as an AARP Age-friendly Livable Community. Erb and current Charles City Mayor Dean Andrews accepted a plaque honoring the community.

“Communities in Iowa are getting older, and rather than bury your head in the sand and think it’s a bad thing, Jim saw it as a good thing,” Anderson told the crowd Saturday. “I told him, not only should you apply to the age-friendly network, but your city already is age-friendly. You’re already there.”

“Age-friendly Communities” is a national AARP program in association with the World Health Association. Charles City is the second livable-designated community in Iowa, Des Moines being the other, and is the pilot program for rural communities in the state. The program is designed to create communities where walkability, health care, nutrition and all aspects of life are available for all ages.

“This is a great place to bring together positive assets, whether it’s the river, the infrastructure or the people,” Erb said.

“It’s nice to be recognized as the first rural age-friendly community,” said Andrews, who heralded many of the positive things associated with the community, including the whitewater course, the fishing on the river from the shore in town, the recently-opened Saint Charles micro-brewery, the Floyd County museum, the Arthur Mooney art collection in the library, the pedestrian bridge, the farmers market and several of the shops and restaurants in town.

“What we’re hoping to do with this new initiative is to emphasize the great assets provided by the senior citizens in our community — whether it’s time, experience or wealth,” Erb said. “We want to bring together those partnerships that allow for a renaissance of rural Iowa.”

Two busloads of AARP members from Des Moines and Cedar Rapids drove to Charles City to take part in the Whitewater Challenge riverfront festival and many of the other activities taking place in town Saturday.

Iowa AARP has big plans for Charles City as the pilot program for its rural communities initiative.

Once a community conducts a survey and participates in a listening session, the town then takes part in the second year of the program, or action plan. One key element of the second phase is identifying indicators for monitoring progress.

Year three through five is the implementation period, where the community will submit a progress report to AARP outlining its progress against the indicators laid out in the action plan.

“Communities across American are trying to do what Charles City has already done,” Anderson said.

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