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Neighborhood Action Initiative

Helping elders age and thrive in their own communities

Most older adults prefer to remain in their homes and neighborhoods as they grow older, but their living arrangements might not be appropriate for their changing lifestyle or safety needs. However many older adults and their caregivers often believe institutionalized care such as a nursing home is the only alternative.

The Foundation's Neighborhood Action Initiative grew out of the 2005 Frail Elderly Neighborhood Project
 that identified the importance of enabling older individuals to stay in their homes as long as possible, as well as the need for developing a localized approach to creating more elder-friendly neighborhoods.

The goal of the Neighborhood Action Initiative is to create and test best practice and evidence-based projects that will help older adults age in place and increase the number of people who are able to remain in their homes and neighborhoods as they grow older. To do this, the Foundation provides neighborhood-based organizations with resources that will enable them to test best practice approaches designed to help people continue to live in their neighborhoods and to share knowledge, ideas and lessons learned with each other.

In 2009 and 2010, the Foundation funded the following organizations within four neighborhoods in the City of Buffalo to help older adults age safely in their own homes:

  • PUSH Buffalo - West Side
  • Hamlin Park Community and Taxpayers’ Association - Masten/Hamlin Park
  • Flint Hill Village/Parkside Community Association - Parkside
  • Canopy of Neighbors - Delaware District.  

The Foundation also funded the Springville-Concord Elder Network in Erie County, Faith in Action Steuben County and Pulteney Aging in Place initiative through the Steuben Senior Services Fund in Steuben County.
As part of this initiative, each organization:

  • Developed and tested their own approaches and ideas to help vulnerable older adults in their own neighborhoods.
  • Organized their work and gauged progress using the AdvantAge model. This model provides a common language and measures grouped around the following categories: Addressing Basic Needs, Optimizing Physical and Mental Health Well-Being, Maximizing Independence for the Frail and Disabled, and Promoting Social and Civic Engagement.
  • Participated in a cross-neighborhood learning and information exchange to identify successes, challenges, and lessons learned.


As a result of the Neighborhood Action Initiative, funded organizations were able to begin, continue or expand services to help seniors age in place and remain in their homes.


Several of the organizations developed unique projects in their areas. For example, PUSH Buffalo brought together people of all ages in neighborhood circles to create projects to improve their surroundings, including fixing up a vacant parking lot and planting grass for children to play. The Springville-Concord Elder Network conducted a survey of older adults' perceptions about their needs in the community and identified a senior center building as a major unmet need.


Groups also reported:

  • An increase in the number of volunteers to assist vulnerable older adults
  • Success in providing home modification products such as smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors to seniors
  • Growing social contact among older adults through creating neighborhood groups and events
  • Informing increased numbers of older adults about the activities and services available using a variety of methods, including newsletters and a call center.

Success in identifying and obtaining additional financial support to continue and expand their activities

To read the complete final evaluation report for the Western New York Neighborhood Action Initiative published in March 2011, click here.

Building on what we learned from the Neighborhood Action Initiative in western New York, the Foundation began work on the Central New York Neighborhood Action Initiative in 2011.

Central New York Neighborhood Action Initiative

More activities, transportation services and help with home repairs were just a few of the more than 400 ideas gathered from older adults living in neighborhoods in and around Syracuse when they were asked what would make it more likely for a person to stay in their neighborhood as they grow older.

To help seniors remain in their homes and neighborhoods as they age, the Health Foundation for Western and Central New York partnered with The Gifford Foundation to kick off the Central New York Neighborhood Action Initiative (CNYNAI) in Onondaga County in March 2011.

After analyzing Census data in a report, "Strategy in Action: Focus on the Frail Elderly," and gathering input from stakeholders throughout the community, the Foundation selected seven neighborhoods in Onondaga County with large elderly populations that had the greatest need for and would benefit the most from a neighborhood approach to elder care:

  • Baldwinsville
  • Eastwood
  • Fayetteville
  • Mattydale
  • South side of Syracuse
  • West side of Syracuse
  • North side of Syracuse

Following the Concept Mapping data collection process used in the western New York initiative, the Foundation then held brainstorming sessions in all seven neighborhoods to gather information and ideas from residents in each community.

At the sessions, residents were asked to complete the statement “One specific thing that would make it more likely for a person to remain in this neighborhood as they grow old is…” The 303 community members who attended the sessions generated more than 400 responses.

The Foundation synthesized these responses to the focus prompt question into 225 ideas and held sessions in each neighborhood for residents to sort and rate the ideas to identify:

1.     How important the idea or issue generated by the response is for increasing the likelihood that people will remain in their neighborhood as they age

2.     How successfully each idea or issue is currently being addressed in their neighborhood

To see how residents sorted and rated each idea, click here.

The results of this process were organized and displayed as Concept Maps. The maps were then analyzed to match how important the idea or issue was rated with how successfully residents felt it was being addressed.

To view the comprehensive results of the Concept Mapping process, click here.  

Next Steps

In the second phase of the initiative, which began in February 2012, HFWCNY invited community-based organizations to submit a proposal for a project that aligns with the Concept Mapping results and AdvantAge Model.


In June 2012, the Health Foundation for Western and Central New York awarded five organizations in the Syracuse area with a total of $80,000 in funding to test ideas to ultimately help older adults in Onondaga County remain in their homes and neighborhoods.


The Foundation awarded grant funding to the following organizations:

  • Canton Woods Senior Center in Baldwinsville, NY will increase access to affordable transportation for older adults in the greater Baldwinsville area.
  • Catholic Charities of Onondaga County in Syracuse, NY will increase its outreach and marketing efforts to better inform older adults of the services available at Catholic Charities and develop a retention program for the expanded Elderly Service Program’s informational and recreational offerings.
  • Huntington Family Centers in Syracuse, NY plans to implement an Intergenerational Learning Project to connect older adults and youths in the South and West sides of the City of Syracuse. The project will focus on cultivating relationships and will provide youths with mentors and help develop older adults' computer skills.  
  • People’s Equal Action and Community Effort, Inc. (P.E.A.C.E.) in Syracuse, NY seeks to address the basic needs of older adults in the Eastwood neighborhood by conducting home safety checks, distributing emergency kits and helping with minor home repairs. 
  • Syracuse Northeast Community Center in Syracuse, NY will address the issue of respect for older adults and personal safety through a series of interactive, relationship-building activities between older adults and neighborhood youths.

For more information on the Central New York Neighborhood Action Initiative, please e-mail CNYNAI@hfwcny.org.

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