Professor helps Los Altos become 'age-friendly' city

Professor of Gerontology Annabel Pelham has applied her expertise on aging to help her hometown of Los Altos become the first "age-friendly" city in California.

Photo of Anabel Pelham, professor of gerontology

Pelham spearheaded a two-year effort that culminated in Los Altos and neighboring Los Altos Hills earning the distinction of "age-friendly" cities. The communities received the title from the World Health Organization in November.

"My hope is that Los Altos and Los Altos Hills will become model cities in California," said Pelham, a member of the senior commission that advises the city councils on issues affecting older residents. She believes the title will help the cities attract funding for senior-friendly improvements, such as installing more seats at bus stops or building a new senior center.

Pelham says the "age-friendly" designation is both an honor and a pledge to improve how the cities meet the needs of older residents. As part of the WHO Global Network of Age-friendly Cities, cities must begin a five-year plan to assess their age-friendliness and set goals.

The cities have already completed some assessments. Pelham enlisted the help of gerontology graduate students to conduct an assessment of downtown Los Altos and Los Altos Hills. "They walked the streets and recorded what's working well for seniors and areas that need to be worked on, for example areas of poor street lighting," Pelham said.

She says that improvements that help seniors -- whether it's affordable housing or curb cuts -- make the city better for everyone. "It's about building an intergenerational community," Pelham said.

-- Elaine Bible