Salem for All Ages is about more than just supporting Salem’s older adults. It is about empowering all Salem residents to make our city resilient today and into the future.

Throughout the history of urban development people have evolved with our cities. We have optimized complex variables to create a habitat for ourselves. Chuck Marohn of the organization Strong Towns argues that cities in the past had a “spooky wisdom” – something unexplainable that made cities and humans grow together. Cities were economically and environmentally resilient.

After the industrial revolution, however, cities became increasingly overcrowded, polluted, and disease ridden. With the introduction of steel and concrete, city planners and architects had a new, quick, and efficient way of building. As a result, these individuals were able to make large scale, sweeping changes. Although some of these changes were positive, this shift has also had negative effects on cities. Housing was created quickly and cheaply, filling communities with buildings not well suited for supporting their inhabitants. An over-reliance on single passenger cars and the associated infrastructure costs that followed upon that reliance have had far too much influence on the design and growth of cities.

Fortunately, in Salem we have two major advantages over other cities. We still have large areas of the city that were not touched by this shift in modern urban design. A second advantage is that we have a truly engaged population, who wants to make Salem the best place it can be. This is where the Salem for All Ages initiative plays an important role in making our community more resilient.

Salem for All Ages is a bottom up approach to city planning and development. It is about putting the power of change in the hands of the people who live, work, and play here. It is about incremental change spread to a large amount of people. It is about making Salem livable for our current senior population and also putting in the work now to ensure our children can age comfortably here in the future.

All the initiative’s subcommittees work on different areas of concern. However, each has a common thread, supporting and empowering people to live their best life. Like bees in a hive, each person, no matter their age or ability, plays a part in building our community and making it strong.

Salem for All Ages is an example of how, at the local level, we can make tremendous changes through small scale interventions. For the last three years, the Salem for All Ages initiative has demonstrated how a wide variety of specialists, business owners, professionals, and other local residents coming together, with the City, can make Salem the best place it can be for all of the people who call it home.

By making Salem a place that continues to support and value all of its residents, we can evolve into a city that is truly resilient. We can be strong enough to weather any storm, whether economic or environmental. We can encourage a “spooky wisdom” that has nothing to do with witches, but everything to do with growing and prospering as a community.

Salem for All ages is not just about making changes for our aging population. It is rolling up our sleeves, working together in a positive manner, and creating solutions that benefit all the people of Salem.

Russell Findley
Built Environment Coordinator
Mass in Motion – Salem
Member, SFAA Task Force

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