Eric Tegethoff

Washington News Service

SEATTLE — A grant program is looking for project submissions to help make cities and towns in Washington state and nationwide friendlier to people of all ages and can be developed quickly.

AARP is back for a second year with the Community Challenge grant program. Last year, nearly 90 projects were funded, including a Renton proposal that turned parking spots into mini-public spaces and a Seattle “hackathon” where participants developed apps to help aging residents.

Executive vice-president of AARP Nancy LeaMond sees the program as a laboratory for ideas that might eventually spread to other towns.

“When we meet with mayors of towns and cities, one thing they always say is they love to be the second to do something, which means they love to steal ideas and adapt them to their own locales,” says LeaMond.

LeaMond was in Seattle earlier this month hosting a “Pecha Kucha” — a fast-paced presentation-style developed in Tokyo. It focused on age-friendly communities.

This year, AARP is focusing on three areas for community grants: accessible transportation, vibrant public spaces and affordable housing, although LeaMond adds that ideas can tackle any issue in a city or town. She says the grant program provides an opportunity to break down bigger issues communities are facing.

“I think people tend to kind of think, ‘Oh, this is too big to be tackled. It’s going to require too big an investment,'” she says. “What we’re seeing is that cities are able to identify smaller steps to take to build to these broader goals.”

Last year, the organization allotted $780,000 in grants. The deadline for applications is May 16 and all projects must be completed by Nov. 5.

It’s open to nonprofits and government entities, although other organizations will be considered on a case-by-case basis.


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