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Forum to explore Denton's quality of life

Denton skylineWhat makes Denton an exceptional place to live? Denton residents will have an opportunity to express their views on this question by participating in a community forum at 9:30 a.m. Dec. 6 in the Joseph A. Carroll Building, 401 W. Hickory St., in downtown Denton. The forum is the first in a series of monthly meetings inviting locals to share views about quality of life in Denton in five areas:

  • Recreation and well-being
  • Residential
  • Transportation
  • Health care, including mental health and substance abuse services
  • Community supports and services

The December meeting will focus on recreational health. An invited expert will lead community members in a discussion about the city’s existing assets and perceived areas of need across a range of services, from libraries and fitness facilities to hiking trails and cultural venues.

The combined areas provide baseline guidance for defining quality of life in local communities. The forum initiative is part of a two-year Aging Texas Well Community Assessment “Toolkit" project funded by the Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services (DADS) and the North Central Texas Council of Governments Area Agency on Aging in partnership with UNT. As grant contractor, UNT will implement the study, collecting information and analyzing results on behalf of Age Well, Live Well Denton, a coalition of Denton schools, businesses, nonprofit organizations and government agencies.

Even as Age Well, Live Well Denton focuses on improving the quality of life for aging adults in Denton, it is a multi-generational initiative in that wellness and aging-friendly issues affect individuals of all ages. Older adults might be concerned with what it might be like to retire in Denton, and younger families might be focused on recreational services for growing kids. The forums give Denton residents of all ages an opportunity to voice the quality of life issues important to them.

In the second year of the study, forum comments will be used to create a survey for distribution to the greater Denton community. An action committee and the mayor’s office will evaluate the forum and survey results to make recommendations for improvements to the city’s infrastructure.

Julie Wolfe, a third-year master’s student of applied anthropology at UNT, is the project coordinator and principal contact. Wolfe is developing her graduate thesis paper on the project’s first-year forum findings. Attracting a diversity of participants is fundamental to the project’s success, she said.

“We need a wide variety of input at the forums,” Wolfe said. “I hope that people of all backgrounds will contribute, because their views about Denton — their stories and experiences — will kick-start the dialogue and shape the survey. The study is an incredible opportunity for individuals to get involved in community building.”

Wolfe credits her teacher and graduate mentor Susan Squires, assistant professor of anthropology, for getting her interested and involved in the topics of aging, community wellness and civic participation. The forum portion of the study will conclude when Wolfe graduates in May. She will remain project coordinator through the second year to oversee the survey.

—Julie West, University Relations, Communication and Marketing

Posted on: Mon 02 December 2013

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