Ability Forum and Block Talks

On October 20th, a windy and unseasonably warm day for our region, Heartland 2050 teamed up with AARP, ONE Omaha, and Nebraska DHHS to host the Ability Forum at the UNO Thompson Alumni Center; sixty people were in attendance.

The two featured speakers were Jana Lynott, Senior Strategic Policy Advisor for the AARP, and Mark Fenton, Transportation and Planning Consultant. Jana focused on the livability index, which was created by AARP, and its impact on creating livable communities for all ages. Mark Fenton shared with the group why it’s vital to move from individual incentives for healthy, active living to more of a design approach and creating policy that leads to systems change.

After Jana and Mark finished their presentations, an interactive panel discussion was moderated by our two featured speakers. The panelists included Sarah Sjolie, Live Well Omaha CEO, Dr. Christopher Kelly of the UNO Department of Gerontology, and Dawaune Lamont Hayes, Board Member of Mode Shift Omaha and the City of Omaha Urban Design Review Board.

The focus on walkability, accessibility, and livability expanded to the weekend with the piloting of a new program between MAPA and ONE Omaha: Block Talks. The first two Block Talks were held on Saturday morning in the Deer Park Neighborhood and Gifford Park/Bemis Park Neighborhood in Omaha. Thirty-two neighborhood leaders, business community members, elected officials, and planning staff came together to conduct a “walk audit,” or, as we’re calling them, Block Talks.

The Block Talk includes a walk around the neighborhood exploring the variety of contexts that can inhibit or enhance how walkable a neighborhood could be. After the walk concluded, groups were formed to create short term and long term actions around themes of policy, projects, and programs that a neighborhood could implement to make its community accessible for all users.