AARP 2023 Community Challenge Grant Announcement!

AARP 2023 Community Challenge Grant Announcement!

“AARP is thrilled to include Walk Massachusetts as part of our Community Challenge Grants this year. Their project in Springfield will empower residents to make their community more accessible and livable for people of all ages.” – Mike Festa, State Director AARP Massachusetts

We are excited to announce that WalkMassachusetts is one of 310 recipients (out of over 3,600 applicants!) of an AARP Community Challenge grant! AARP Community Challenge is a grant program to make tangible improvements in communities that jump-start long-term change. It is part of AARP’s nationwide Livable Communities initiative, which supports the efforts of cities, towns, neighborhoods and rural areas to become great places to live for people of all ages. To learn more, visit 

This grant will fund the Walk Audit Academy (WAA), a walk audit training program that we will lead with WalkBike Springfield. WAA was piloted in Worcester with the REACH program, UMass Worcester Prevention Research Center, Health Resources in Action, and funds from the CDC. WAA is an experiential learning theory-based curriculum that guides learners in: 1- discovering and documenting their local transportation and land use decision making context; 2- learning walk auditing basics; 3- developing an action plan; and 4- implementing the action plan. 

WAA includes a video series, produced by WalkMassachusetts, that guides learners in the process of planning, conducting, and summarizing walk audits. It employs a “flipped classroom” model to extend the capacity of WalkMassachusetts and WalkBike Springfield, and enable community groups to engage in co-learning that benefits the entire Springfield community, with emphasis on environmental justice block groups (minority, income, English isolation). WAA walk audits are intended to build community, and collect information about infrastructure conditions that can be shared with elected/appointed officials to improve walking safety, convenience, and comfort. WAA will allow Springfield residents to better participate in their planning and transportation processes, ensuring that local voices are heard. WAA will also help to improve the safety and walkability of Springfield, which in 2021 had 9 fatal pedestrian crashes, the same number as Boston which has a population over 4x that of Springfield. 

Safer streets benefit everyone— however, older adults will benefit from safety improvements the most, as people ages 50+ make up the vast majority (69%) of crash victims in MA (2021, WalkMassachusetts Fatal Pedestrian Crash Report). Improved neighborhood walkability also results in better physical, social and cognitive health for the whole community, and more accessible streetscapes mean more independence for people with disabilities, whose mobility options are most limited.

Thank you again to AARP for their generous support! To learn about the other Community Challenge grantees, visit:

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