SHEPHERDSTOWN — On Dec. 11, 2019, Linda Spatig announced at the Corporation of Shepherdstown’s monthly town council meeting that the town had been given AARP’s designation as a member of the AARP Network of Age-Friendly States and Communities.
One year later, Spatig is leading the Age-Friendly Shepherdstown Board in completing its community-wide needs assessment on which areas of Shepherdstown need to be changed, to improve the town’s accessibility for people of all ages and abilities. Once the assessment is completed in the next couple of months, the town will be eligible for a 2020 grant from AARP, to work on the most immediately pressing issues found in the research.
“AARP has a little community challenge grant program. This year, the grant applications are due by April 1,” Spatig said, mentioning Charleston, which is the only other municipality in West Virginia in the the AARP Network of Age-Friendly States and Communities, got one of the grants last year. “It will be a grant, somewhere around $1,000. So it will be our task, to decide what to get started with that money, to make Shepherdstown increasingly livable.
“Last year they funded something in every single state that there is an age friendly city,” Spatig said. “I think we would have a good shot this year, because we have some great data to put together with a proposal. I’m very optimistic about it.”
According to Spatig, the assessment process kicked off in 2019, with five listening sessions being held at different locations throughout town.
“I think Shepherdstown is very open to being a smart city, which is a great thing,” Spatig said. “We held the focus groups with residents at Shepherd Village, Shepherdstown Area Independent Living members at Trinity Episcopal Church, Asbury United Methodist Church members at the Clarion, general community members at Evolve and then the fifth one was for the members of the Shepherdstown Business Association at the Scarborough Library on Shepherd Campus, which is where they usually meet.
“It was a very rewarding experience, and I learned so much about the community and people’s lives at them,” Spatig said. “I’m very appreciative to all of the people who came to them. They were heard, and we paid attention to what they had to say.”
According to Spatig, the four main areas of concern mentioned by every focus group were: the lack of community communication, the need for affordable housing, the need for more communal green space and the need for accessible sidewalks, roads and bike paths.
One last step is needed to be completed in the assessment, before the committee can send a proposal to AARP.
“We’re currently in the process of conducting an online survey, to learn what people need in town,” Spatig said, mentioning more participants are needed, to complete this step.
The survey was developed by AARP, and AARP’s researchers are analyzing its results. Community members must complete the survey by midnight on Feb. 1. To take the survey, visit aarp.co1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_9BOd1E5J0gM2Cs5 or fill out a paper copy at the Shepherdstown Visitors Center or Town Hall.