Age Friendly Westerly

In 2019 on the heels of a community health needs assessment in greater Westerly, community members and organizational representatives convened and committed to addressing the needs and concerns of older residents.  And so, Age Friendly Westerly was launched, with the support of Age Friendly Rhode Island.  Shortly afterwards, we adopted the domains of liveability framework.

The domains of liveability include: housing, transportation, social participation, respect and social inclusion, civic participation and employment, communication and health information, community support and health services, outdoor spaces and buildings.  

Age Friendly Westerly has developed a plan with strategies that seek to positively impact the community in all of these domains.  As well, strategies identified by Age Friendly Westerly are reflected in the town’s 20-year comprehensive plan.

The work of Age Friendly Westerly strives to include and involve the older residents of the community.  Through our many partners, including Westerly Library, the housing and skilled nursing facilities, social service providers, the police department, town government, the hospital, and community organizations, we seek to engage older residents.  

One effort that has been particularly fruitful is community conversations and coffee hours in partnership with the Westerly Public Library.  Our work to create a Westerly Village, working with The Village Common of RI, has resulted in many new people joining the effort to create a network of mutual support so that people can stay in their homes longer.  We also have created a PSA video series featuring some familiar people from Westerly discussing issues of importance to older residents. 

As of the summer of 2021, Westerly now joins with other communities across the state and US to become a part of the network of AARP age-friendly communities.  It is clear that Westerly values its citizens of all ages and recognizes the importance of joining together to create opportunities to age gracefully here.  Being named an age-friendly community by AARP is a notable milestone.

Age Friendly Westerly diagram showing areas they wish to improve.

Age Friendly Westerly and AARP announcement event August 2021

Age Friendly Westerly and AARP announcement event Aug 2021

Westerly lies in the southwestern shoreline of Washington County, Rhode Island and was incorporated in 1669.  According to the 2020 census, the total population of Westerly is 23, 359.  Known for its beautiful beaches, grand public library and adjacent Wilcox park, and pink-toned granite found in buildings along the East Coast, Westerly is a community that cares about its neighbors.

Age Friendly Westerly Quick Facts

The median age in Westerly is older than in Rhode Island as a whole.

Washington County has the highest percentages in the state of people 55 – 64 years (16.3%) and 65+ years (19.5%).

More than 1 in 5 Westerly residents are over age 65

Housing

In the Wash. Co., 33% of older resident homeowners and 40% of older resident renters are housing cost burdened.

Social Participation

13.2% of older Westerly residents live alone compared to 11.8% county-wide, more than in any other part of RI.

Food Security and Nutrition

Economically insecure older adults (40% in Westerly) struggle with inadequate nutrition.

Civic participation and Employment

Rate of voting among Westerly seniors is higher than the US median (62.7% vs. 55.6%).

Communication and Information

In community conversations, residents report a lack of information about what resources are available to help.

Community support and Health Services

40% of Westerly seniors are economically insecure with a household income of less than $30,000 per year.

Access to healthcare overall is favorable but limited for behavioral health specifically.

Outdoor spaces and Buildings

Access to parks within a half mile in Westerly is higher than the median in the US.

15% of Westerly’s older residents have an ambulatory disability.

Transportation

Local public transportation infrastructure is very limited.

Support and Public Engagement

The following organizations are actively engaged in Age Friendly Westerly:

  • AARP Rhode Island
  • Age Friendly Rhode Island
  • Alzheimer’s Association of RI
  • Apple Rehab of Westerly
  • The Frank Olean Center
  • Habitat for Humanity
  • Jonnycake Center
  • The North End Neighborhood Association
  • Ocean Community Chamber of Commerce
  • PACE Rhode Island
  • Pawcatuck Neighborhood Center
  • St. Vincent de Paul of Westerly
  • Tri-County Community Action
  • The Village Common of RI
  • WARM Center
  • Westerly Hospital
  • Westerly Housing Authority
  • Westerly Pawcatuck Clergy Association
  • Westerly Planning Department
  • Westerly Police Department
  • Westerly Public Library and Wilcox Park
  • Westerly Senior Center
  • Westerly Town Council
  • Wood River Health Services

Other Westerly area partnerships working to make Westerly a more liveable community for older residents:

  • Basic Needs Network
  • Health Impact Collaborative of Greater Westerly
  • The North End Neighborhood Association
  • The Ocean Community Collaborative
  • The Westerly Village