Age-friendly volunteering: Making Anchorage better together

AARP Alaska wants to insure that people in later life have opportunities to contribute to their communities. AARP volunteers serve throughout Alaska and across the nation to create better places for people of all ages. With deep local knowledge, they are well-positioned to make communities more age-friendly.

Anchorage’s membership in the AARP Network of Age-Friendly States and Communities is a commitment to make community improvements over a five-year period. The first two years will be spent engaging the Anchorage community, establishing a team to guide work and completing an assessment. That is where volunteers fit in. Volunteers build the capacity of age-friendly initiatives, assuming a variety of important roles.

There is no one-size-fits-all model for age-friendly volunteer engagement. Creating an age-friendly Anchorage will require a spectrum of volunteer roles. Some of these roles are intermittent volunteerism. Others take a significant time commitment on the part of the volunteer. Still others are most appropriate for those with professional expertise.

Community volunteers are those grassroots volunteers who support age-friendly advocacy and programs in our local community. By providing “boots on the ground” to raise awareness of the age-friendly effort, these volunteers give input on what residents need and want. Volunteers don’t need to have a strong connection to AARP, just a commitment to making Anchorage an age-friendly community. Some volunteers may pitch in for a single event, such as helping out at a listening session in their neighborhood or by participating in a walk audit. Others might have an ongoing presence by joining the Age-Friendly Leadership Team at monthly planning meetings or joining local boards and commissions.

Issue area volunteers are those with personal and professional expertise, assuming specialized roles to leverage their skills and knowledge. By serving on boards and commissions related to the eight age-friendly domains (housing, transportation, health services, etc.) they may train other volunteers and staff in age-friendly issues. Retired professionals, or those still in the workforce, give AARP a chance to ‘frame the debate’ on key issues.

Leaders may be developed from those volunteers already engaged in the Network of Age-Friendly Communities application process, the pilot Walk Audit, or the upcoming Listening Sessions scheduled for this fall. AARP Alaska hopes to inspire more volunteer engagement in age-friendly initiatives in a variety of ways.

Community volunteer leaders have a necessary role in assessment, planning and implementation of our age-friendly effort. Reaching out to their peers while fostering partnerships creates and delivers a unified message about Anchorage’s age-friendly work. These leaders understand the perspectives of residents and embrace Anchorage’s ethnic, cultural and racial diversity. They also bring their technical guidance and abilities to sponsor age-friendly initiatives.

The Anchorage Age-Friendly Leadership Team is offering all of the above volunteer opportunities. We look forward to engaging volunteers in creative, impactful ways. If you are interested in working with us to create an Age-Friendly Anchorage, either in a long-term or short-term role, please contact Patrick Curtis, AARP Alaska’s outreach director, at or by calling 907-268-7919.

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