Supporting Healthy Aging Across New York State

At the Health Foundation, we truly enjoy highlighting our grantee partners and the amazing work that they do. Here are a few spotlights from our 2021 annual report: Connections.

In 2021, the Health Foundation continued supporting several efforts to implement age-friendly practices and principles across our community. This aligns with our mid-term
goal that communities and health systems are working collaboratively to become age-friendly. Age-friendly environments are free from physical and social barriers and supported by policies, systems, services, and technologies that promote health across the lifespan, and enable people to continue to do the things they value at any age. The Health Foundation’s advocacy for New York’s Master Plan for Aging is closely related, as advocates say the statewide plan should build on and learn from existing age-friendly efforts.

Partnership And Learning Through Centers Of Excellence

In 2017, New York became the first Age-Friendly State in the country. To support these efforts, the Health Foundation provided grants in 2019 to establish Centers of Excellence in Erie, Oneida, and Tompkins counties in partnership with the New York State Office for the Aging’s Age-Friendly Planning Grant Program. The program helps communities and local governments incorporate healthy, age-friendly community principles into all relevant policies, plans, ordinances, and programs. The Health Foundation’s funding also provided additional support for the state’s program by underwriting a learning collaborative and technical assistance program led by the New York Academy of Medicine.

In Erie County, the focus of the Center of Excellence has been on embedding age-friendly principles and vocabulary into each of the Office for the Aging departments. Their efforts include a partnership with the University at Buffalo’s IDEA Center to implement universal design methodology in their age-friendly work. Oneida County partnered with the Parkway Center and the Community Foundation of Herkimer and Oneida Counties to incorporate livability work into their Age-Friendly Center of Excellence.

The Tompkins County Age-Friendly Center for Excellence has been working to give people of all ages a community that supports their needs and lets them thrive. Its primary goal is developing healthy aging by transforming the social and physical environment to support health and well-being for community members across the lifespan.

All three counties have served as mentors for other New York counties participating in the learning collaborative as they prepare to establish their own centers of excellence.

Fulton Block Builders: Achieving Livability, One Neighbor At A Time

Like many American cities, the economy of Fulton, New York, was once fueled by large manufacturers. The city’s residents benefited from dozens of factories—including the likes of Birdseye, Miller Brewing, and Nestlé—which employed over 3,000 workers combined. When those and other plants closed, however, Fulton was left with high unemployment rates, depressed property values, and elimination of city-sponsored programs. These blows affected the city’s quality of life and, with sections of the city in disrepair and unemployment at an all-time high, Fulton residents were losing hope and pride in their hometown.

“A few years ago, someone wrote an article titled, ‘Fulton, New York: America’s Sad Story,’ for a newspaper in Syracuse. When I read the story, it felt like there was no hope, and that our best days were behind us,” said Linda Eagan, Administrative Director of Fulton Block Builders (FBB), a neighborhood revitalization program that helps both homeowners and property owners recover part of the cost of their property improvements by providing small grants for these investments. These efforts are strongly aligned with age-friendly principles that help create communities where people of all ages can thrive.

All FBB programs and projects are resident-led initiatives to improve the quality of life, safety, and livability of neighborhoods. With support from the Health Foundation, Fulton Block Builders created a replication manual that can guide other communities in developing similar programs. “We measure success through homeowner investment and community involvement,” said Eagan. “In five short years, Fulton Block Builders has generated a strong movement that is quickly rebuilding pride in Fulton.”

In one year, FBB supported 70 older adults in the modification of their homes for easier access and livability. One resident noted how much of a relief the widening of his front steps was: “I used to have to hold on tight for fear of falling, and my wife couldn’t even go out the door. Now it’s so easy for both of us to get in and out again.”

Age-Friendly Health Systems Across New York State

Older adults face largely-preventable challenges in accessing patient-centered care in health systems, from overmedication to falls to treatable cognitive concerns. Age-
Friendly Health Systems (AFHS), an initiative of The John A. Harford Foundation and the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI), uses a set of four evidence-based elements—known as the 4Ms (Matters, Medication, Mentation, and Mobility)—to organize the care of older adults and improve care.

The Healthcare Association of New York State (HANYS) launched the first phase of the New York State Action Community in 2020, leading to 37 teams achieving Age-Friendly status across the state. The Health Foundation is helping to fund this effort, along with funding partners the New York State Health Foundation and the Fan Fox & Leslie R. Samuels Foundation.

In Phase 2, HANYS aims to include a broader range of participants and activities with the goal of further expanding the statewide AFHS movement to provide the quality care that aligns with what matters to older adults and their families. The Health Foundation will continue its support with their previous funding partners, now including the New York Community Trust.