(COLLEGE STATION, TX) — With support from the Texas A&M Health Science Center (TAMHSC) School of Rural Public Health, the Brazos Valley recently received an Achievement Award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Building Healthy Communities for Active Aging National Recognition Program.

Dr Marcia Ory

Dr Marcia Ory

Awards are presented to communities demonstrating the best and most inclusive overall approach to implementing smart growth and active aging at the neighborhood, tribe, municipality, county and/or regional levels. Many Brazos Valley area accomplishments were highlighted in receiving this award, including the revitalization of the downtown Bryan area with a comprehensive plan that created more walkable areas for citizens of all ages through enhanced pedestrian crossings, wider sidewalks and streetscape improvements.

College Station boasted Wolf Pen Creek Park, which has incorporated smart growth principles of increasing walk and biking trails while making the trail system wheelchair accessible and design of a fitness circuit for seniors. The Brazos Valley Area Agency on Aging (BVAAA) has been especially proactive in promoting alternative transportation options for meeting senior transportation needs in rural communities.

Accepting the award on behalf of the Brazos Valley Council of Governments (BVCOG), Tom Wilkinson noted it was a collaborative community effort, with the BVCOG overseeing community planning efforts, the BVAAA delivering evidence-based programs for seniors and the TAMHSC-School of Rural Public Health Program on Healthy Aging providing assessment and evaluation services.

The BVAAA’s Ronnie Gipson noted that having safe and affordable environments can make it easier to be more active, adding he met a man who had lost more than 100 pounds by walking in Wolf Pen Creek Park. Seniors wanting to maintain their health and independence can join one of the community chronic disease self-management programs, with information online at www.bvcog.org/programs/area-agency-on-aging/bvaaa-evidence-base-programs

Marcia Ory, Ph.D., M.P.H., Regents Professor in the TAMHSC-School of Rural Public Health, emphasized the award was a wonderful example of community planning, aging services and academic partnerships working together to make the region a more attractive place for seniors to live.

The Brazos Valley Obesity Prevention Network (bvopn.org) is a local coalition mobilizing the community in obesity prevention efforts. With support from the TAMHSC-School of Rural Public Health, it is creating a downtown Bryan walking circuit and creating a safer outdoor play area at The Children’s Museum of the Brazos Valley.

— Rae Lynn Mitchell