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UW Researchers Help Citizen Group Setting Vision for Senior-Friendly Laramie

April 24, 2018
head portrait of a man
Bernard Steinman, assistant professor in UW’s Department of Family and Consumer Sciences and research director at the Wyoming Center on Aging. (UW Photo)

Baby boomers are booming, according to U.S. census data, and a citizen coalition boosted by efforts from University of Wyoming researchers wants Laramie residents’ opinions about what is lacking in the city for seniors.

Meetings to collect input begin this week.

Laramie’s 50-59 age group is growing three times faster than the general population, says Bernard Steinman, a faculty member in the Department of Family and Consumer Sciences and research director at the Wyoming Center on Aging (WyCOA) at UW.

The Age-Friendly Initiative wants to create a future Laramie that meets the needs of the burgeoning older population.

“I’ve never told anybody about this and not have them be enthusiastic about it,” he says. “It really gets a good response.”

Laramie Mayor Andi Summerville signed a proclamation last week supporting efforts by the group to encourage and develop paths toward a city that provides for a healthy and fulfilling senior population.

The group will collect resident opinions during its first meeting 6 p.m. Thursday, April 26, at the Feeding Laramie Valley Building, 968 N. Ninth St. Other meetings will follow in May, Steinman says.

“The visioning meetings are going to be very important,” Steinman says. “We want to get the voice of residents, the people who are experiencing these issues now, to find out what their priorities are.”

Group members include representatives of WyCOA, the Eppson Center for Seniors and Foster Grandparents of the Rockies. The effort is through AARP’s Age-Friendly Community Network.

The growing older population is a national phenomenon and also true in Laramie, Steinman says.

Data from the 2010 census show a general population growth of 13.3 percent for Laramie, but the 50-59 population increased at 33.3 percent, and the age 60 and over at more than 20 percent. Newer data are not yet available. Figures for each category have shifted by now, says Steinman, meaning the age 60-plus category is probably now showing the 33 percent growth.

“We really do need to start preparing the environment so people can stay in Laramie and not have to move,” he says.

Steinman, an assistant professor in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources and gerontologist by training, helped with a similar initiative in Boston before moving to Laramie.

The age-friendly model used by AARP was created by the World Health Organization and emphasizes:

-- Outdoor spaces and buildings.

-- Transportation.

-- Housing.

-- Social participation.

-- Respect and social inclusion.

-- Civic participation and employment.

-- Communication and information.

-- Community and health services.

Senior access is the key factor, says Steinman, who adds that Laramie has many resources -- but, if people can’t get to the resources, that’s troublesome.

The AARP initiative also emphasizes those who want to work or volunteer should be able to work or volunteer, he says.

“There are a lot of biases against older workers due to stereotypes that sometimes aren’t true,” Steinman says. “Overcoming these barriers, too, is important.”

For more information, call Steinman at (307) 766-5688 or email

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