Salem mayor honored for age-friendly city work

Salem Mayor Chuck Bennett won AARP Oregon’s inaugural age-friendly community champion award in May 2022(Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)

Oregon’s chapter of the American Association of Retired Persons on Monday honored Salem Mayor Chuck Bennett with its inaugural Age-Friendly Champion award.

Bandana Shrestha, AARP state director for Oregon, presented the award at Monday’s city council meeting, citing Bennett’s leadership as the city undertook a comprehensive analysis of services and needs for older residents in 2018.

Salem, under Bennett’s leadership, has prioritized thinking about the needs of older residents in planning for transportation, housing and other major city projects, she said.

Shrestha also mentioned the work of Center 50+, a city-run community center, during the pandemic to keep older Salemites engaged and stave off social isolation.

The award is intended to “recognize individuals and organizations who’ve made significant contributions in making Oregon communities great places to live, work and play for older Oregonians and their families,” Shrestha said during the meeting.

She called the projects she described “amazing, timely, very impactful work that would not have been possible without the support and championing from leadership.”

Bennett said he was honored to receive the award, but that credit should also go to city staff, particularly Marilyn Daily, Center 50+ director.

Bennett is leaving office at the end of 2022 after three terms as mayor. He said Monday his work on making Salem friendlier to seniors is among his proudest accomplishments, and urged city councilors to continue to consider older Salemites in their planning and decisionmaking.

“When you think of equity, think of your elders. They are often, often left out of the mix. They’re our parents, they’re our grandparents,” he said. “Keep them in mind when you make decisions.”

-Rachel Alexander