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Four Seattle-area organizations are big winners in AARP's Community Challenge grant program

The Pike Place Market Foundation was one of four Washington organizations honored as part of the AARP Livable Communities Initiative. Sponsored by AARP.

SEATTLE — The Community Challenge grant program is part of the nationwide AARP Livable Communities initiative helping local communities become great places to live for all residents.

"This is our third year doing the Challenge Grants," said AARP Washington Outreach Director Amanda Frame. "It's a really exciting opportunity for communities to make changes and build momentum within the community to become more age-friendly."

The grants fund projects that create vibrant public spaces, demonstrate the value of "Smart Cities," deliver transportation and mobility options, and increase access to housing options. This year, four communities in Washington, out of nearly 1,700 applicants nationwide, were chosen to receive the Challenge Grant.

One of them is Sound Generations, who will partner with Hopelink on educational efforts to help those in need understand and access a variety of transportation options. Their goal is to help people increase their independence and mobility leading to enhanced social engagement. 

Rebuilding Together Seattle is another recipient who will help the Southeast Seattle Senior Center increase visibility and accessibility, expand ADA-compliant parking, and engage and connect a diverse range of community members.

The final recipients were both projects around Pike Place Market, which is a living community as well as an iconic tourist destination. It's home to nearly 500 senior residents -- many of them being low income.

"The Pike Place Market Foundation actually is responsible for helping the community to thrive and we do that in a number of different ways," said the foundation's Executive Director Lilian Sherman. "And one of them was finding these opportunities to really enhance the senior experience in the market."

A group of AARP volunteers from all over the country did a walkthrough of the market to assess issues using a discovery tool app through Standford University's One Voice initiative. Later, another coalition of people of all ages from Seattle and King County went through a similar process.

"They audited essentially all of the age-friendly opportunities and challenges with the market as a historical district," explained Lilian. 

By the end of the project, over 400 data sets were collected that were then analyzed and presented to market leaders to have them make more informed decisions to improve accessibility for all ages, including the market's senior citizens.

The data found that the Pike Market Food Bank was not only inaccessible but difficult to find. The Challenge Grant will help spruce up directional signage, making it especially easier for individuals with disabilities, low-income and senior residents to access the space.

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